Frequently, I am asked the question, how do you listen to people’s problems all day long? Isn’t it depressing?
As a psychotherapist, I listen to people’s most personal, distressing concerns. Often, they have not shared their concern with anyone else. When a new client enters my office, they are scared. They might be thinking, “Will I ever feel better? Will this feeling of sadness, anxiousness or sorrow ever go away?” I tell all my new clients,“I too have been on that side of the couch.” As a mental health therapist, my first order of business is to provide comfort and a sense of hopefulness.
Of course, all careers have their ups and downs, their pluses and minuses. But do I wake up with a sense of hopelessness that I can’t make a difference? Absolutely not! I have a inner reservoir of hope or I would have never pursued a career in counseling.
They don’t teach us about hope in graduate school when we are busy developing our clinical skills, but without hope what do any of us really have?
Imagine this, you and your partner decided to attend couples counseling, which is not an easy decision to make. Most couples feel that by merely suggesting couples counseling is admitting defeat.
You and your partner manage to make an appointment, and together you nervously attend your first session. Imagine, if the therapist listened intently to your stories and at the end of the session, conveyed a sense that your relationship was a lost cause.
By attending therapy, you would be wasting your time and money. How would you feel? Are seeing my point? Now, I am not in the business of sugar-coating reality, but I do believe that most issues can be improved.
Life is forever throwing us curveballs. Sometimes life does not seem fair. When you or a loved one are diagnosed with a chronic or incurable illness, or lost their job, their spouse, their child. You name it, the list is long and ugly. Do you give up?
I recently read a thought-provoking book, by a brilliant, compassionate neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi, M.D., whose life ended much too early.
Paul was a deep-thinker, who was forever assessing the meaning of life and death years before he was diagnosed with lung cancer at the young age of 35. Before his cancer diagnoses, Paul had his life carefully planned by becoming a neurosurgeon, writer, professor, husband and father.
It doesn’t seem fair, does it? A young man in the prime of his life, having it suddenly cut short. How does anyone make sense of a life that ended much too early? You can’t. But you can focus on today on this very moment in time. One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite people said:
“There are only two days in a year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live,”– his holiness, the Dalai Lama.
Just open the newspaper, listen to the news and it is easy to feel an overwhelming sense of sadness about what is happening in the world. It seems so filled with hate and discord, with random bombings, shootings, mudslinging politicians, and unrest across the globe.
Finding Your Bliss
So where do you find your bliss, or if you are struggling with a heart-wrenching problem, where do you find your hope? Some days it is hard to find. Is it the little moments that really define our life? Those decisions we mindlessly make on a daily basis? Can you choose happiness?
You might be thinking, well, I just lost my job. It’s kind of hard to find a shred of happiness at the moment! Yes, I agree that is a difficult, scary place to be. After the feelings of panic, anger and sorrow subside, as they will likely be some of the first emotions you feel, perhaps you can start to contemplate a feeling of hopefulness? The prospect of a better job, a new beginning? A sense that somehow everything will work out. That you will get through this.
When life gets tough, we have to dig down deep and find that inner resolve and pull through the mess. The great thing about hope is that it is free, it’s available to everyone and it doesn’t cost a dime.
Therapy session photo available from Shutterstock