The Back Room

With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.

It’s easy to fall into the trap.  One minute you are sharing ideas from a Portuguese poet-philosopher and the next you are bitching about your daily commute.

To me it smacks very much of someone telling me about their day, without sharing any insight or reflection.

I prefer the metacommunication, the analysis of how and what we just shared, in order to improve upon comprehension of future communication.

I want to talk about my patients.  Walking up and down the floors, stopping in selective hospital rooms, I thought about expectations.  In my profession, it is important to have realistic expectations.  That is why I believe in the tenet: Meet the patient where they are.

Simply put, just because a patient screamed at you and told you to go to hell last week does not mean they feel the same way this week.  In fact, they may really need someone to talk to this week.  There is no room for grudges, personal or hurt feelings.  Most likely the mood they were in had nothing to do with you.  It is almost always never personal.  And seeing that patient again may be an opportunity for strengthening the therapeutic relationship.  You discuss last week’s mood, allow them to take responsibility for their actions and empathize with them as necessary.

It seems a silly place to discuss the difference between empathy and sympathy but I have a feeling I will be doing it often because it is a common mistake.

Sympathy is when you convey feeling for someone and empathy is when you convey you understand what they are feeling.

Your friend’s dog dies.

 Sympathy is “I feel bad for you.”

Empathy is “How bad you must feel.”

When we remove ourselves, it provides an opening for listening to how someone else is feeling.

If I had a lot of people following me I would say, now this statement is probably going to upset a lot of people, but since I can count my followers on one hand, it sounds rather arrogant.

The statement is this: Friends make lousy therapists.

For so many reasons.  But for the sake of this argument, it is because friends often cannot help but insert themselves in how friends’ lives affect them.  Someone tells a story and immediately the friend shares a similar story.  Friends want to let their friends know they care; Therapists want their clients to know they are heard.

How many times have we heard a person saying they don’t want your sympathy, what they want is to be understood?

Any wonder why more children are in therapy now?  They want to be understood and someone who cares, someone who already has a bias towards them cannot be objective.

Yes, family members make lousy therapists as well.

I will expound upon this issue much more as this will keep coming up.  Probably because people will disagree with me.  I did it again.  I assumed in my arrogance “people” will disagree with me.  I welcome more and more followers of this blog.  Especially those wishing to engage in intelligent dissent.

As Aaron Sorkin wrote in an episode of Sports Night and paraphrased in The West Wing, “if you’re a dumb person, surround yourself with smart people, and if you’re a smart person, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.”

I’m a smart person and I make mistakes all the time.  I like to learn from my mistakes so I won’t make the same mistakes but will instead make new mistakes, thus keeping the circle spinning.


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This entry was posted on September 4, 2014 by in Social Work, Thoughts and tagged , , , , , , , .

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