I am in the position, in my vocation, of supporting growth and change, and even of offering teachings and learnings, to be taken or not; it's really up to the client to choose. I am also in the position to receive, and I do. Very Much. I have the fortune of sitting with children and teens, mothers and fathers, women, and men, couples, and even dogs at times. The stories are unique, poignant, inspiring, and often heart-breaking. What they all have in common is the reflection of the sensitivity of the nervous system, the great need for love and attachment. I work with that, and I am lucky for it.
In each story, each presentation, the opportunity presents itself for me to learn new ways, new threads, new flavors of parenting, of thinking, of loving. The human mind wants to categorize, and at its more archaic form, it wants to compartmentalize in black or white categories; in good and bad. Categorization in the "good" and the "bad" is a developmental process in the child. When overly focused on and emphasized by parents, the child learns rigidity, exclusivity, and will be more likely to experience anxiety, and depression. As it is common in parenting experience to reward "good" behaviors with praises and "positive" attention, and "bad" behavior with disconnect and punishment. The child will develop and choose a set of behaviors that will ensure the her needs are met. The child learns to be "good" and when she behaves in ways that are categorized as "bad" she feels shame, and in time, comes to associates self-worth with reflections she receives from parents, and society based on how "good" or "bad" she is. When the child learns to behave in ways that will provide connection at all cost, she will also allow more authentic and genuine parts of her self-expression to stay dormant, and eventually this leads to unbalances.
You and I, we all have this mechanism of learning by association wired in our brain. When our sense of self is so invested-as it is a very human survival mechanism to do os-in being good, and we are confronted with the "bad", which often comes in the guise of "different" than our belief system, we react. That reaction can range from mild inner psychological discomfort in the expression of a laughter to outright anger, and rage, and violence. The latter is the stuff of wars.
So, I return to being lucky, which was my initial motivation for writing this post. When I am presented with a new and unfamiliar way of being in the world, a story different than my own, and a story that challenges my own set of cultural and familial "good" and "bad", I can choose to open and be curious, or I can choose something else. My vocation requires me to stay curious, to not judge, and not offer advice, or sway the other in a direction that I perceive as "good". But more than that, at this time in my life, and this time in the game of being a psychotherapist, I have come to value the different, the new, the stories that invite me to pause, to open to and stay curious about this person in front of me. When I do that, I'll admit that at times, it requires a few takes before I can get there, I inevitably learn. I learn from you all, and I am grateful for that. In learning from you all, I, myself become better at being curious about the shades of grey.