I have been nervous for weeks now. My job hunt started two months ago, and since then I have written for applications, been on four interviews, gotten two rejections and waited for the two last one. The last interview was in Bergen on Thursday. I was one of 46 applicants for 5 positions, and one of 14 people who got an interview. Yesterday everything felt a bit hopeless. I thought I had to start the job search process again, and even wrote to my supervisor to see if somebody had called him as a reference (nobody had). So mentally I prepared for swallowing the disappointment and start all over again.
I left work at 15:30 and went to the supermarket to buy some food. I had just bought the groceries when the phone rang. It didn`t even hit me that it could be a job offer, as it was after work for me and I thought I would get a call at the normal work hours. When she presented herself as the woman who interviewed me on Thursday, I wanted to shout out in happiness. I got the job! Even better: It is in Bergen, where I studied to become a psychologist. I have hoped, for years now, that I could go back there. I am not sure if it will be forever, since I have a job here that I might go back to, but I need to take one year with children to become a psychologist specialist, and there is no better place to do it than in Bergen. The job was also the one I wanted the most: They have a huge group of people working there, with many activities after work to bond and create a good atmosphere. I also liked the fact that four new psychologist will start at the same time as me, because it will make it easier to start when I have others who have to learn as much as me. I also have a lot of friends in Bergen, and it will be so good to see them again. I can also do more of what I love to do: Take singing and piano lessons (I haven`t been able to do that the last three months since I moved home after selling my apartment) and work together with musicians to make my own song. There are simply more opportunities in Bergen, and I know it will be good to begin a new phase in my life.
Recently, I wrote about a book called “Emotional Blackmail” by Susan Forward. At the end of the book, she writes about traps people fall into, that makes us vulnerable when dealing with difficult relationships. One of those traps, is the fear of falling into a “black hole” of loneliness and unhappiness. Forward describes this as a normal reaction that many can have, the fear is often worse than reality, but this fear can be so powerful that people stay in unhealthy relationships or situations. She has a concrete tip on how to handle those insecure feelings. First, she sits there with the patient and ask them to go “into” the black hole in their thoughts. While there, feeling vulnerable and like life never will be okay again, she asks the client to bring forward a good memory. In the book, a woman who is afraid of loosing her husband even if she wants a divorce herself, tells Susan that she feels so alone and afraid that she never will have anyone around her again. Forward then asks her to come up with a positive memory, and to think about what makes her happy in her day to day life. For this patient, a memory of when she was a child and got a horse, comes up. Susan asks her to remember this memory, and the patient immediately feels better and stronger. In this more positive mood, it is easier for her to remember other good things: She has friends, family and pleasurable interests, and she realizes that she can feel afraid and helpless, and still be able to get out of that feeling by thinking about happy memories and what she has today.
When reading that paragraph, I remember a dream I had many years ago. It started as a nightmare. I didn`t know where to go, and felt completely disoriented. I was trying to find my way back after walking in the mountains, but everything looked unfamiliar. I kept on walking, with panic growing inside. Suddenly, I followed a path that lead my to the most beautiful waterfall I`ve ever seen. It was surrounded by a tranquil space that made me cry because it was so wonderful. I felt completely safe and protected, and when I woke, the afterimage of this beautiful place, was still there. I can still feel relaxed and reassured when I think about this place, because it reminds me of beauty in the most difficult of circumstances. Whenever I feel down, I can bring that memory back, and it reminds me that sometimes, you just need to walk for a bit longer, and you will find something that takes your breath away and makes you happy.
So, are you afraid of falling into a black hole you can`t get out of? And do you have happy memories or good things in your life that you can bring forward if you feel alone and helpless?
There are many health professionals out there who struggle with their own mental illnesses. Usually, we don`t hear about it, with some exceptions that helps fight stigma and give hope to others who want to become what they dream of themselves. But it is a two-edged sword, and therapists with their own issues must address those issues if they want to help others in a good way.
A good example is Kay Jamison, a psychologist with bipolar disorder. Another is Theresa Theopano. She has used medication and sought help for her problems, and been open about it while also wanting to help others with similar problems. What she noticed, is that when she confessed she was using medication and had mental health issues, other people working with mental health, opened up and told her about their struggles, too. She writes:
I have learned from my work with the NYC Queer Mental Health Initiative, an all-volunteer LGBT peer support network, that it is entirely possible to hold space for clients while being authentic about our own lived experiences, and without “othering” the people sitting across from us (or next to us) talking about their problems. I am wary of feeling pressured to compromise my authenticity for the sake of maintaining someone else’s definition of professionalism–a loaded concept whose overtones of racism, classism, and sexism are so eloquently described in this article.
Another memoir is from the lesbian psychotherapist Chana Wilson, that contains an exquisite level of detail about Wilson’s own difficult past growing up and coming out amid an extremely complicated family dynamic. The extensively published and accomplished psychologist Marsha Linehan developed Dialetical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) as a treatment for borderline personality disorder–which she revealed that she herself experiences.
Another example is the father of psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud:
This is taken from an article in “Psychology today”
In 1899 Sigmund Freud got a new telephone number: 14362. He was 43 at the time, and he was profoundly disturbed by the digits in the new number. He believed they signified that he would die at age 61 (note the one and six surrounding the 43) or, at best, at age 62 (the last two digits in the number). He clung, painfully, to this bizarre belief for many years. Presumably he was forced to revise his estimate on his 63rd birthday, but he was haunted by other superstitions until the day he died—by assisted suicide, no less—at the ripe old age of 83.
That’s just for starters. Freud also had frequent blackouts. He refused to quit smoking even after 30 operations to correct the extensive damage he suffered from cancer of the jaw. He was a self-proclaimed neurotic. He suffered from a mild form of agoraphobia. And, for a time, he had a serious cocaine problem.
A number of surveys, conducted by Guy and others, reveal some worrisome statistics about therapists’ lives and well-being. At least three out of four therapists have experienced major distress within the past three years, the principal cause being relationship problems. More than 60 percent may have suffered a clinically significant depression at some point in their lives, and nearly half admitted that in the weeks following a personal crisis they’re unable to deliver quality care. As for psychiatrists, a 1997 study by Michael Klag, M.D., found that the divorce rate for psychiatrists who graduated from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine between 1948 and 1964 was 51 percent—higher than that of the general population of that era, and substantially higher than the rate in any other branch of medicine
The article from psychology today, points to the fact that many health professionals have their own issues. And even if sometimes that means that their ability to show empathy is greater, it is troublesome if they don`t work on their issues and give proper treatment. It is wrong if the therapist can`t be there for the clients when they suffer themselves. Since I`ve worked with trauma, and did so for two years, I started to struggle with containing everything I heard, and when I got into a relationship that was traumatic for me, I had to take a break. At the time, I didn`t want to see it, but luckily I had people around me who helped me see that I needed to take care of myself first, before I tried helping others. I am really happy I did so, because continuing without realizing that the feelings I had might cloud my judgment when I talked with people who reminded me of myself.
To other health professionals out there, I would highly recommend a book called “help for the helper ” by Rotschild. But it might not be enough to just read, sometimes therapy or supervision is necessary if you are on deep water. I know my problems might resurface, and that I must take that seriously. As a client, if you feel that your therapist struggles, you are in your right to address that or even search for a new therapist if it doesn`t work out for you.
At the moment I am reading “Emotional blackmail” by Susan Forward.
“If you really loved me. . .”
“After all I`ve done for you. . .”
“How can you be so selfish. . .”
Do any of the above sound familiar? They`re all examples of emotional blackmail, a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten to punish us for not doing what they want. Emotional blackmailers know how much we value our relationships with them. They know our vulnerabilities and our deepest secrets. They are our mothers, our partners, our bosses and coworkers, our friends and our lovers. And no matter how much they care about us, they use this intimate knowledge to give themselves the payoff they want: our compliance.
Susan Forward knows what pushes our hot buttons. Just as John Gray illuminates the communications gap between the sexes in Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, and Harriet Lerner describes an intricate dynamic in The Dance of Anger, so Susan Forward presents the anatomy of a relationship damaged by manipulation, and gives readers an arsenal of tools to fight back. In her clear, no-nonsense style, Forward provides powerful, practical strategies for blackmail targets, including checklists, practice scenarios and concrete communications techniques that will strengthen relationships and break the blackmail cycle for good.
I really liked the chapter on how to get out of the trap of emotional blackmail. It doesn`t promise you that everything will be okay, but that it is possible to become stronger and have choices even when it feels like everything is hopeless. It gives the power back, by teaching us how to use a non-defensive way of talking to people who blackmail us. Even when we feel there is no way out, the truth is that by giving in to the blackmail, we reinforce the blackmailer`s agenda and let go of our own integrity. This is a book that actually helps, if you use the techniques. Sometimes therapy is necessary, but reading a book can really help to motivate and push you toward change like good friends or therapists would do.
Last week I got the phone call. Would I be interested to come to a job interview? The job is in a little city 3 hours away from here, as a community psychologist. The job description is working with youngsters from 7-18 years old, and it will entail education of health personnel who work with children and families with problems. I really want this job, so am quite nervous before the interview. I practiced together with my supervision last week, and found I lost my words quite often. What are my worst qualities? How will I contribute to the well-being of the children? How will I react when I have to go against the parents wishes because they don’t see the problem? Some questions are hard to answer because I don’t always have a firm opinion about what they want to know. What is most important, though, is to get my enthusiasm out there. I want to help others, and the reason for really wanting this job is that it will be all about early stage treatment. I will have the chance to focus on prevention and not just healing after people have suffered for years. I also like the fact that I’ll have the chance to work together with people from different occupations, like nurses, teachers and politicians. I will be able to contribute with what I know about psychology on a community level, and this has truly been a dream for me. So cross your fingers for me!
She was an unpredictable beautiful 20 year-old girl. Fire within her, that was often quenched by rain from thunderous clouds. Others didn’t know how to be with her, as it felt like playing Russian roulette. They wanted to be there, to love her. But when her inner 3-year-old awoke, they ran away in fear.
You can see my heart beating. You can see it through my chest. That I’m terrified, know that I must pass this test.
So just pull the trigger, as my life flashes before my eyes. I’m wondering, will I ever see another sunrise?
But it’s too late to think of the value of my life.
Warm hands, touches she never would feel again. She couldn’t think, as thoughts were drowned by memories she rather keep away. She tried to do the right thing, but 3-years-olds haven’t learned what the right thing is yet.
She felt like little Colette, singing alone in her castle in the clouds.
In a castle where no one could reach her.
Psychological research has had a tendency to study negative effects of behavior both on the individual and cultural level. But new research has started to focus more on the positive aspects of behavior. I like this shift, as I think it will change how we interact with the world. In one TED talk I watched, scientists were studying genetic superhumans. That is, people with genetic ‘flaws’ that has proven to give these people abilities normal people don’t have. By getting more knowledge about these ‘superhumans’ we are also a step closer to knowing which environmental, psychological and biological factors contribute to their genetic make-up.
Humans in a big crowd have an inclination to behave the same way. It is difficult to resist the force of it. This is why people, who ordinarily are sensible, can do things that they regret afterwards . It is also the reason people who normally are harmless can become violent.
There are thousand different ways we can be affected by mass suggestion, both in a negative and positive sense.
A mass-suggestion experiment
If I could do a study as a researcher, I would want to look at how positive mass-suggestion could affect us . Let’s for fun’s sake call it a social media experiment. If every person shared the research hypothesis I’m about to present with one person, it would be interesting to see what would happen next.
My hypothesis would be something like: Can we by mass-suggestion, make people around the world do the same thing on the same day?
For example I could propose that the 30th of september, every one of us tried to do one random act of kindness. What do you think would happen? Could it affect us all in a positive way?
The date could be set one year in advance to make sure that many get the message, but as information can spread like fire in the right circumstances maybe it would not be necessary to wait that long.
So, would somebody be interested in an experiment like that? What can each and all of us do by simply being kind towards others?
Why not try? We got nothing to lose.