After a lonely Christmas, a series of repetitive dreams reminded me what I miss most: the content missing from Longfellow’s lines on ships passing in the night. My graduate school days in clinical psychology were the happiest and most alive of my life. Everyone was either real or trying to be so. “Thank you for the gift of your anger” was a common response to a heated exchange, as well as my more frequent “I know, and I’m working on it.”
How do other retired therapists cope with the everyday prattle? I seem to have turned avoidant from fellow humans who avoid their depths. The well-bred don’t cry at funerals; the “strong” avoid their own depths.
It’s been said that the layperson is leery of shrinks for fear they are psychoanalyzing them on sight. A smidgen of that is true. After years of training and observation of body language, it’s difficult not to pick up on a stranger’s stress, concerns or ambivalences. And there’s no “I know, and I’m working on it” in sight. Often there’s empathy for the struggles a stranger appears to be going through, but no way to comfortably acknowledge it.
I first noticed him at a free church lunch, due to some leaves caught in his dark knit cap. After the luncheon I saw him seated in the damp grass, smoking. I’ve been wishing he had a pad to sit on, to protect him from the cold damp. Maybe that’s just a problem of my loose boundaries. (That’s something else I’m “working on.”)
I’ve learned one must be extra specially careful to phrase it just right when attempting to reach out. I tried ineptly with a fellow blogger and received a rather intense bite. Served me right for attempting to go where angels fear to stray (glad I can be free with my cliches here).
On top of it all is my slipping into senescence, and making errors in judgment. I still cannot absorb nourishment from prattle, however.
OH, ABOUT THE DREAMS in my heading? I’ve had a slew of them in the brief time since Christmas in which I’m attracting others to a group support session. The room in my house is overflowing with people–some I know and others strangers. In my past I not only participated as a member of a greatly therapeutic group, but also formed a women’s consciousness raising group in graduate school and another with staff wives at the mental health center where I worked. In the therapy group we always began with each person describing how he/she was feeling at the beginning of group–remember, one usually feels different ways at the same moment. And in reality I did lead many groups with regularly troubled individuals plus the groups with sex offenders.
Working for years at the nearby prison has isolated me from most of the psychologists in my small town, and I do wonder how other longterm retired psychotherapists maintain.
Maybe it was just the magic of my graduate school milieu that developed my thirst for the depths.