The therapist digested all the words, gestures, changes in speed, language use; then she filtered it away as though nothing might change her world. She was his conduit to wash away the muck of his thoughts.
“Oooff!” he exclaimed. “I feel like I’ve just done a big poo and handed it over to you, Susan. I feel a little guilty for it”.
She laughed momentarily and then replied “How do you interpret the dream?”
“I don’t know. I think my greatest fear is that I am hopeless. Doomed to come close to all my goals but so laden with fear that I am paralysed and can’t reach out. I think it’s a malaise I have always suffered. That I might set out on the right journey towards my goal, that I might think positively and make some headway towards them but that I will throw in the towel. That I walk near my goal, see my goal, taste my goal but ultimately I will never reach my goal. It’s not just now; it’s been like this forever. As long as I can recall. When I was a child I didn’t dare let myself have what I want because my confidence was eroded systematically by my brothers and sisters. By my cousins. By my friends. Then I went through a period where I struggled and through courage and hard work I got where I wanted to go – I made the best team, I got A grades, but then once getting there I just let it slide away. Sometimes because once I got there I thought ‘it ain’t what it’s cracked up to be’ and then at other times because I thought ‘well now what? Now that I have achieved my goal, where to next? Do I now have to make new goals, and if I make new goals, where will they take me? And after that? A na na na and so on and so on. To what end? Especially when you start to think of the meaningless of your own existence. Am I making sense? Does anyone else feel this way that comes here?”
She swallowed saliva and changed her tone.
“Almost all of them. You would be surprised at how many people suffer the same problems you do. There are so many of you, what I refer to as the ‘worried well’, who can’t find meaningfulness in their existence”.
“Susan, I am not so sure that it is comforting to a narcissist like myself to think that these neuroses I suffer from are ‘ordinary’. It’s funny that.... To think that despite all my thoughts and the fact that I write them down, that essentially I am not special. Not different. And yet isn’t that how all great men came to be, by first accepting their insignificance?
What I find to be so... disconcerting... is that I meet, and I say ‘men’ here because they are usually men and I did note that I let a slip of the tongue earlier, who reach a point in their lives where they seemingly have it all, just like my Uncle Eddie, my father too, who suddenly – when seemingly they have all that they should need – supportive wife, healthy children, successful career, nice nest egg for retirement, big house, cars, good circle of friends – and they just have this male form of menopause, they breakdown and question everything. And they feel empty? How is that right? To see a sixty five year old man look back on his life as thought he might have lived all of it incorrectly.”
“Doesn’t that show you that there is nothing wrong with the feelings you have? That what you are experiencing is nothing more than the frustration of your existence. One of the solutions that Carl Rogers talks about is ‘radical acceptance’. That whilst humans keep fighting their reality they cannot truly change. And studies show that when this ‘radical acceptance’ is applied to human beings, it frees them to make changes in their lives for the better. In fact, it has been shown that where human beings don’t accept their lives as they are, that any changes they try to make to themselves will not be long term and sustainable. They are usually doomed to make the same mistakes again”.
“I like that. I will google that when I get home. Susan, that’s why I like coming here” he said. He watched eagerly to see if she should savour the comment or let it wash through her in the same manner in which his problems had. Susan returned the gesture by doing both.