This world is full of people who dedicate their lives to helping others. It is admirable, and even more so when they share their stories with us. We need the seeds of hope to grow, and inspirational posts like these is the water that let us reach the sun.
My name is Eli and I’m a license social worker in clinical practice at a OMH facility in NY. I graduated with a Masters in Social Work in 2011. And I recently joined a psychoanalytic institute for further education and training.
The voice broke the calm in the waiting-room. Sam looked up at the woman who had spoken. Her hair was long and blond and she wore a purple business suit with heels. Standing up, he met her at the doorway. She smiled as she stretched out her hand for him to shake and said, “My name’s Nicole and I’m going to be your therapist”. Sam shook her hand and smiled nervously.
Following her down the hall, he entered her office. Inside were two comfy pink chairs. A sign on the wall promoted relaxation and a round coffee table sat in the corner.
“Pick one” Nicole said still smiling, this time looking a bit nervous herself. Some of Sam’s unease settled at their shared nervousness.
“I’ll take this one” Sam said as he sat down. He held the arms of the chair as he sat down, trying not to fall back into the cushion. He didn’t want to get too comfortable, after all, he didn’t know if he could trust her. It was hard to tell after only three minutes.
“I’ll take the other couch. I don’t like sitting on the office chair. It creates this illusion that I am the expert with all the answers and you’re the patient. In reality all the answers are within you. The only thing I can do is help you explore them.”
He liked this concept and her words made him feel calm. She seemed genuine.
She moved the chair over to Sam’s and leaned back, crossing her legs. “So tell me, what brings you here? Tell me a little about yourself?”
Sam sat silently. He wasn’t sure if this was just an opening remark and then she would bombard him with questions or if she was sincerely interested in his background and difficulties. After a few seconds of silence Sam began, “Okay, it was six years ago when I lost it”. Sam paused. He looked up to see Nicole’s reaction. She was sitting straight with her hands on her knees. She looked sincere and attentive, waiting for Sam to continue. “I thought I was being poisoned” Sam paused again. He needed to see her facial expression. Does she think I’m crazy? Her concern seemed true which pleased Sam.
He took a deep breath and wanted to continue talking but a flash back interrupted his train of thought. He remembered what he felt when he thought everyone was going to annihilate and ostracize him. Forgetting where he was, he began reliving the fear. The old debate returned to his mind. Which was worse, death or being exiled? Moments later he concluded that annihilation would be worse. Living in loneliness is worse than death.
He sat there quietly, caught in his thoughts. Nicole didn’t want to interrupt him. But after five minutes of silence, she gave in. “That must have been so scary.”
Sam whipped his head back to her. He felt like he was suddenly being woken in the middle of a dream. His breath was shallow. Where was he? He felt himself reentering his own body. Taking a deep breath he oriented himself and composed his thoughts “Yeah, it was or is, scary.”
Sighing, he continued. “You see, my parents and wife are very religious.” Scrunching his face together, he could feel the pain behind his words, “and that’s what triggered it. I have been living a faithless life, pretending to be religious. Everything I did was make believe. I felt like I a heretic. Then I felt like I just couldn’t go on the way I was going. The world just felt unreal. I thought is this the only way to live? Was there a way out of the ghetto? Then there were times that I would hope that I could somehow force belief into me and rid myself of this atheistic gene. ”
Sam took a breath and Nicole took the opportunity to reflect. “So it sounds like you didn’t feel authentic. You were just going along with your parent’s dreams trying to fulfill their dreams and trying to forget about your own needs.”
“Yeah. I was so scared to share my feelings with my wife. I feared she would just leave me.”
“So you had nobody to share your true feelings with.”
“Exactly! I had so many existential questions and I felt religion was just stifling me. It was so predictable. But if I would voice my feelings, everybody would think I’d lost it. The questions were pressing me until I couldn’t handle it. I became paranoid and believed I was being poisoned. But really I was being poisoned emotionally.”
Looking at the clock, Nicole stood up, and stretched out her hand. “Our time is up. I think we should begin next week here.”
She shook Sam’s hand good bye, and opened the door to the hallway. “I hope to see you next week on Friday at Ten o’clock.”
“Great. Thanks so much!”
As Sam left, he thought this was the first time he’d honestly voiced his true feelings and they were heard.
- Inside the Therapy Session I (thinkingthoughtsdotorg.wordpress.com)