Thursday, June 09, 2016

Transition, But First, Going Away

I am pretty sure that I am finished being a hands-on, face to face psychotherapist.  I cleaned out my desk.  The office is being rented to someone else.  I have kissed all of my patients good-bye. 
It was difficult, kind of earth-shattering in a very personal way, but now it’s done.

I did this gradually, over a two year period, so I think it went as well as possible.  It also gave me time to transition to the next phase.  I have worked with so many people who needed to navigate through difficult transitions,  They had many different reasons: job loss, death of loved ones, illness, accidents, divorce, recovery, new job, new move, new partner. I tried to help them develop new skills. Now it’s my turn.
What I seem to be doing, just by having the time now to do so, is to step back and look around. I had been focused on so many individuals who each had to deal with unique situations. Now I want to look up at the sky.  I want to try to put everything in some kind of perspective, to see how everything ties together. The world is changing very rapidly.  It is creating a great deal of excitement and hope, but also disruption and fear.  You can se e that in the politics that are in such turmoil.
I also see so many educated, dedicated, creative, caring people who are doing exciting, transformative, world changing things in so many areas, such as genetics, brains science, communications, space exploration, immunology, business management, sustainable energy, product development, medicine, food science ….. on and on in almost every field, even psychology.
I guess what I’d like to do is help everyone take a moment to step back and see how all of these changes interact with each other, and what kind of a new world we are creating. How do electric cars relate to genetic editing, to transgender marriages, to sustainable energy, to drone warfare, to on-line education, to a mars landing, to guided meditation?
Is all of this taking us where we want to go or is it just keeping everyone busy and making some people very rich?
I have become very aware that everyone’s lives will be very different in just twenty five years.  I have also become very aware that, if I’m here, I will be 96 in twenty five years.(WTF?)

Therefore, before I ask the two hundred basic questions I have been thinking about, and try to generate a discussion about how we should all participate in designing our future, I will be going away.  Far away, to the other side of the world.  Got to do this while we can, ya know.

When I return we will begin the next phase, unless I decide that it’s enough to just play Shoots and Ladders, Pony, trains and ball.

See you in month or so.

Enjoy the summer.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The Day After

Now it’’s Thursday, after the Tuesday which was the last day in my office, except for cleaning out the draws.
Tuesday was much more difficult and complex than I thought. I had a full day of appointments.  It was my last meeting, as a therapist, with all of them.  It was my last day of being a professional, in that capacity, after forty-three years.  
Two days ago I was talking about the frustrations, about how I often felt that my job was a lot like having to redirect a tide that has been coming in, every day, for years, over the same path.  There was just so much I could do to change to constant flow of the water, the moon and the earth.  There is also the realization that those forces continue whether I am in my office or not.
Today, the day after, my feelings are much different than I had expected.  Instead of that frustration mixed with relief, I feel much more a sense of loss, mixed with satisfaction.
Each hour I said good-bye to someone I had been intimately involved with ( in a professional way, of course) for anywhere from six months to twelve years.  Two of them I have actually known for almost twenty-five years, as they have returned to visit me through several life changes.  I know the names of their parents, children, lovers and friends better than I know the names of my aunts and cousins.  We have been together through losses, tragedies, addictions, bad decisions, distorted thinking, and serious illnesses.  We have also been able to achieve marvelous successes, in recovering, in business, in relationships, in finding ways to put their lives back together.
During the past two weeks I have said good-bye to my last ten patients.  It is very gratifying to say that they all are doing well.  Only one of them requested a referral to another therapist, which was fine.  But the other’s, even the two who are completely nuts  
(diagnosis code:WOW) feel ready to take on the world on their own.  And they are.  Three have new, better jobs, two have moved to better places and feel secure, two are in new relationships, one is getting married and one is pregnant.  Marvelous stuff!
Don’t let me mislead you here.  There were dozens of others who I have referred out, or let go over the last two years who will not do as well.  They are part of the frustrations that haunt me.  The ones I stayed with until the end are the ones who I knew were doing a lot to pull things together.  

The point I want to make is that while there are still huge problems in our society, and worse problems in the rest of the world, yesterday really made it clear to me that we, as a species, are social creatures.  We live better, feel better, and do more when we feel connected to other humans.  That makes up a large part of what I did for people: I was there for them.  They knew that. I understood them, as best as I could. I didn’t judge them. I helped explain them to themselves, and I tried to nudge them in a better direction. For many of them I was the only one who ever did this for them.  Many had been pushed around, neglected, demeaned, ignored, abused, pressured, rejected and worse.  
It was their responses to me that kept me doing this for over forty years. I know I received so much for almost everyone I saw.  Most of the people I saw came to trust me.  They were able to tell me things that had happened to them, or just about the thoughts that ran through their minds Things they had never told anyone. I took that as an honor.  It was a great feeling to be granted this special privilege.

I am not a religious person.  I do not expect to experience a great spiritual awakening. I am very comfortable not having complete explanations for things, yet knowing that somewhere there is a cause for every effect, and that someday it may be made clear and understandable.  I don’t believe in uncaused (miraculous, paranormal) causes.

I have listened to the stories of thousands of people.  I have seen the rich and poor, and everyone in between.  I have seen geniuses and some who take a bit longer to understand things.  I have seen people of all races, creeds, national origins, sexual proclivities, and different levels of power. I have seen many people who have very unique beliefs.   
        I have come to some conclusions.  The most important one is that their is no intrinsic way to rank order who is worth more, or who is more important.  Money and material wealth are clearly false goals.  There is no real meritocracy.  Every soul, every spirit, every mind has the same value. We are a species who are both blessed and cursed by being able to wonder why we are here.  We are all here, and despite the many advances in medicine and science, at some point, we will each be gone.  It is up to each of us to find our place in the world, to try to figure out what we feel is right and important. We each have to do what we need to do to stay alive, stay connected, find some pleasure and find some satisfaction.  
Its not an easy task.  It is a life long process of trying to get it right, without having any idea of what “it” is. Usually we find our answers with other people, in mutually caring relationships.  We do this first with people who are very close to us, and then with others, in our communities, in our societies and in our world.

Now, like all of my former patients, I am movin’ on to the next stage, eager to see what kinds of interactions that will bring. Change is difficult, but it can also be exciting.