It happens this way …
I just finished reading Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb. Gottlieb is a therapist who not only shares her experiences with challenging patients, but who sits on the therapy couch herself as she tries to sort out feelings about a traumatic relationship break up.
I’ve been to therapy several times in my life, so listening to the conversations from both sides of the couch was enlightening. I don’t think I realized the challenges for the therapist who needs to patiently build a trusting relationship in order to help a person change and grow. And, as Gottlieb illustrates, that building process could take months.
Among the many insights I gleaned from this highly readable book, I’d like to share three that touched me:
- Compassion is a desirable virtue, of course, but Gottlieb makes the distinction between idiot compassion versus wise compassion.
In idiot compassion, you avoid rocking the boat to spare people’s feelings, even though the boat needs rocking and your compassion ends up being more harmful than your honesty. People do this with teenagers, spouses, addicts, even themselves. Its opposite is wise compassion, which means caring about the person but also giving him or her a loving truth bomb when needed.
- We marry our unfinished business. (Or, I’d add, we get into all kinds of relationships that help us discover that unfinished business.)
Rather than play the blame game when things go awry in any relationship, I need to remember to pause and ask: “What’s my part in this situation? What do I contribute to the conflict? What do I need to learn?” Sometimes it may be as simple as I didn’t communicate what I needed in the moment and it was that silence that caused misunderstanding. Or, it’s time to move on from a relationship because it no longer serves the highest good of either party. Whatever. The challenge is usually an indication of my own unfinished business.
- Here’s a new word for me: cherophobia, the fear of joy. (Chero is the Greek word for “rejoice.”) Gottlieb explains:
People with cherophobia are like Teflon pans in terms of pleasure––it doesn’t stick … It’s common for people with traumatic histories to expect disaster just around the corner. Instead of leaning into goodness that comes their way, they become hypervigilant, always waiting for something to go wrong.
How hard it must be to walk through life always waiting for the sky to fall or the next shoe to drop, always missing out on chero because of the phobia.
These are some of the things I’ve been thinking about this week and wanted to share.