I have been a therapist for six months, and I don’t think this is the profession for me. I come in every day and can’t believe the stories and people I meet.
Sometimes I wonder if I should be the one in therapy, because time and time again I find myself unable to sympathise with the personality traits, which by all accounts are displayed only in those with personality disorders.
Take, for instance, Subject A who is in his early twenties. For the past few years it has become increasingly clear, at least from his perspective, that he is destined for greatness.
He often recalled stories that depicted his superiority. One of my favourites is when he was sitting an exam. As many exams do, it posed a specific essay question, which outlined a scenario and a topic for discussion.
Subject A took it upon himself to not only give the examiner a piece of his mind, but rewrote the question to emphasise what the question should have said so he could answer it.
He states in his response, using a red pen instead of the mandatory blue or black, “You shouldn’t have written the question for this topic like this, but rather should have posed an essay that I would have been able to answer. In order to save you the embarrassment, I will write the answer to the question that should have been posed in the first place.”
On another occasion, he spoke of how he is particularly jealous of his younger sibling going on trips overseas, despite the fact that she lives out of home, has a high paying job and has graduated from university with honours. He just can’t seem to fathom why she gets to do those things and he doesn’t.
Subject A, doesn’t apply himself to get a job or to study at university, happily taking the monthly government cheques while still believing he is more important than others and should be treated as such.
He is critical of the people he surrounds himself with; particularly he avoids being seen in public with his parents as he would rather not associate with lower class even though he still lives in their house and eats their food.
He will often use people to gain help with difficult projects but then take all the credit for himself. Stubborn to the point of detriment, Subject A is so incredibly arrogant that he believes everything that comes out of his mouth is the only opinion that matters, everyone else is wrong, and he gets frustrated when someone points out they are invalid.
He seeks constant praise for mundane tasks, and is often unaware as to others feelings, or how his opinions and actions affect others. He is often lost in daydreams of when the stars will all align and he will gain all the money and admiration he so rightly deserves.
Of course I see the flaws in his logic, but telling him that was against my better judgement, and resulted in a condescending lecture.
On top of not being able to sympathise with Subject A, I find that I actually have no influence on the lives of the people I counsel. I can never help people when they’re in dangerous situations.
Let me tell you about Subject B. Now, Subject B is a woman in her thirties. She used to be the type of person that you went to high school with, and expected them to succeed the most out of all your graduation class.
But ten years later, she is working in job she hates, with a boss who treats her terribly. She could easily get a better job, but she simply won’t leave a situation that is causing so many negative feelings in her life.
Subject B rationalises bad things that happen to people (including her) by calling out things the victim has done to deserve it. She looks at herself as a victim that should be punished for some reason.
She’s stuck in this horrible dead end job because she gets what she deserves. Internally, she honestly and wholeheartedly believes that she is in a helpless in a situation, even though this is obviously not true.
Despite being in a completely different set of circumstances, she actually displays similarities to that of someone suffering domestic abuse because similarly, victims often see no way out of the situation.
The problem is she recognises she’s in a negative situation, but she copes by blaming herself, and isolating herself from loved ones. Subject B is hoping that eventually things will get better, or at least she thinks there are worse situations she could be in, so why complain?
Sure, all these behaviours can be explained through a belief in a just world, learned helplessness and coping mechanisms. I told her that there are only two reasons why she is stuck in a rut.
Either, she believes she did something completely horrible, which in reality is unlikely, or she is just making excuses. I mentioned to her, that she should try to acknowledge and accept her own responsibility for being in the situation, rather than blame every other possible thing for the negative environment.
Neither Subject A nor Subject B came back after those sessions, which clearly gives credence to my terrible skills as a therapist. Now I sit here, nursing my umpteenth glass of whiskey, whilst throwing myself a pity party. Ironically enough, I should go and speak to someone about all this anxiety. The next day that is exactly what I did.
After the third or fourth session, my therapist, after noticing my self-worth was at an all time low, called me in for an unscheduled appointment.
When I got there, she handed me a copy of a newspaper article about Subject B, who had become the pioneer behind a massively successful business. She then told me that she called Subject A, who although still slightly arrogant is much more modest and understanding of others.
Apparently, I had ultimately influenced their lives in a way that I never knew. I never picked up that bottle of whiskey again.
By Naomi Eleanor