On Being a Psychologist

I love it.  Some people have asked how I do it now, or if it’s fair or right for me to listen to others and help them when I have suffered this deep, strange loss that I have to face daily.  I understand and respect that question, and it is very kind of others to try to feel what my family might be going through and not to want to burden me.  Or to wonder if I can help them.  Anyone who has been to therapy knows that, as one prepares for their therapy meetings, they think about how their therapist will react, what they will say, maybe even how they will feel about their client’s story.  This is called transference

Well, I see that my situation is a real transference dilemma for some people.  But people who know me and work with me know that I know how to focus on each person.  I know how to compartmentalize.  I don’t compare one person’s pain to another, including my own.  I never have. 

Ever since I began my job, I started a ritual where I envision my client and what their week might have been like, the space (like real, physical space) they might have come into the meeting from, the mental space, and the events that might have impacted them.  It’s a mini-meditation that allows me to get into their world.  Honestly, having hourly mini-meditations in the effort of becoming another person, understanding them, and helping them is a very good practice.  At least for me. 

More generally and even spiritually, sometimes I wonder what it means that the tragedy of suicide happened to a psychologist, to his wife, who is also a psychologist, and to his kids, whose parents are both psychologists.  I used to joke... everyone assumes that kids whose parents are psychologists are either totally perfect or destined to be totally pathological.  I have always known that my kids were neither of these extremes.  I wonder what it will mean to them that I am a psychologist, one who specializes in families, development and growth.  It all seems so ironic.  Or, maybe it’s destiny… like, I was going to have to care for these kids and I needed a lot of skills.  Sometimes I think I had twins for that reason, too.  So they can have each other through this terrible tragedy that no one else can understand.  Either that or to help finish each other's math problems.

Anyway, in the meantime, I really like my job.  For some reason, I was destined to be a psychologist, and I am here to reassure people that the work still can and will get done.  It’s sad but true that no one can relate completely to any other person.  What happened to Mike was unique, what happens to all of us is unique, and that’s how I enter every meeting.