I recently had a difficult interaction with someone in my personal circle. I was very upset by their words and actions and could not find a single lick of empathy or understanding for them. A few days later, a client said some unkind things to me and guess what? I wrote it off as them having a bad day, didn’t take their behavior personally, and walked away from the interaction unscathed and unbothered. In thinking about this disconnect, this ability to bear some things and not others, I started wondering how I could tap into my “therapist self” more often.
How can I be less invested emotionally in the outcome of difficult interactions? I care about the relationship and want things to work out, so how can I find some kindness? I know I have it in here somewhere, I found it for my client after all. What is the difference between these two interactions that I could find it in one situation and not another? Sure, there are all the boundaries around the relationship with the client but their words just rolled right off of me.
My question for myself is how to be as kind as I can to everyone. How do I take the patience and humility that I can garner for my clients and apply it to the other relationships in my life? How can I be my best self in my roles as friend, partner, family member, employee, supervisor, customer, teacher, neighbor? Everyday I practice being as supportive and understanding as I can to my clients. Admittedly, some days are better than others. But I try my best. I want to be able to display these same attributes in my other relationships too.
Being a therapist has altered me. It takes me outside of my narrow inner world and gives me the opportunity to have multiple interactions with others. In doing this, I learn so much about myself. Through this work, I have learned that I do have some patience after all and that being sensitive can be an asset. I have been able to find empathy for others in my own life where before only hurt lived. Hearing about the challenges others face has opened my eyes to the fact that we are all just doing our best to get by in this world. It takes the sting out of difficult interactions when you can recognize that the other person is probably having a tough day and that their behavior towards you likely has absolutely nothing to do with you.
Has your own work altered you? What have you learned from doing this work that you apply in the rest of your life?