During my internship, I sat with a woman whose anger in the session was visceral; body trembling, mouth spitting, and laser-cutting eyes. I didn’t like her, as she blamed everyone else for her problems. This time it was her kid’s fault that she’d pressed the gas pedal too hard, leading to her ultimately getting a speeding ticket.
I’d had it. So, to put two and two together for her, I asked: “Are you saying your kids made your foot press the pedal?”
None of my graduate courses in Counseling Psychology prepared me for what followed.
“Who the HELL do you think you are? You know absolutely nothing. You don’t have FUCKING kids.”
Later, after relaying the interaction to my supervisor, I breathed a heavy sigh, knowing that I wasn’t cut out to be a therapist and that this evidence was enough for him to suggest a career change.
Instead, he asked, “If not the response you gave, what do you think she needed at that moment?”
The image of the woman’s face came again; rigid, protected, and hurt. And this time, when I observed her without inserting myself, the answer surprised and forever changed me.
Now, will you do something for me?
Recall a memory of your own, of a time when you felt wronged, invalidated, minimized, or abused in some way. Go ahead and close your eyes and really see yourself, of that image of you hurting. Now, go. Hold and comfort yourself, and tell yourself it will all be ok. Don’t stop until you feel something.