Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Doin' it wrong professionally: Now with more credentials!

I'm in a conference all week.

It's an annual event that happens in my state, and provides several choices for intensive trainings in addiction treatment that last anywhere from one to four full days.  The one I'm taking is for clinical supervision, and my attendance at this event has been graciously facilitated by a former employer, who happened to have an open seat already paid for, and I happened to be the first one to respond to the email.  It turns out that really fast typing is not just a cool parlor trick.

But that's not what I'm doing wrong.  I'm sitting in a room of seasoned professionals-- okay, some of them are seasoned, some of them are just motivated to be in charge of some stuff.  What I've noticed about this bunch of counselors is how much we love to hear ourselves talk.  And this is not a unique group, in my experience.  The funny thing is, as an introductory exercise, the class instructor asked us all to list what we believed were our strengths and our "challenges," and most of the people in this class identified being "a good listener" as one of their strengths.  Um.  Not even close.  Some of these folks are barely waiting for their turn to talk, let alone listening to what anyone else is saying.

I shouldn't imply that I'm not part of the yammering.  But I catch myself at it sometimes, and have to examine my motives for talking in the first place.  I've also been working lately on my own behavior of interrupting people, which seems like a pretty bad characteristic in a therapist.  I notice this behavior much less when talking with patients than with colleagues and with other people, but I can't tell you for sure that I NEVER interrupt patients...  What I do know is that in a room full of other counseling professionals, the only way to get a word in is to talk over someone else.  I have a hard-wired tendency to talk fast and loud, and 12 years of sitting in staff meetings with other therapists has only reinforced this.  I have to work against both my nature and my nurturing in order to not be a complete jerk.

Incidentally, when asked to identify my strengths, I never tell people I'm a good listener.  I'm not sure I am.  But I can be silent when I don't know what to say, and most people think this means I'm listening.  Maybe I am listening, and I just don't recognize it, given the behavior of people who say they're good at it, and then just jabber on and on.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ethics and Elementary School Children

I was discussing ethics with my daughter the other day.  She was telling me about a girl she's known since she was 2, who routinely does things to hurt her feelings, as she did recently.  Hannah was then telling me that if someone else made that girl cry, well, she deserved it.

I tried to convey to Hannah that this is not a true statement.  No one "deserves" to be hurt.  And even if another person is mean to us, we can choose to be kind and loving, even if they don't deserve that.  It's the best definition of Christianity I know: treating others better than they have earned.

I wrote about this conversation on my Facebook status the day it happened, and got a variety of responses.  One, from a dear, dear friend suggested I introduce the concept of Karma.  There is one problem with that: I don't believe in Karma.  I don't believe that people get what they give.  I have seen many examples of people who are despicable, spiritually speaking, and have succeeded in life by all external measures: social, financial, professional.  People on whom I have wished a rash in hidden places have prospered in all visible manners.  I attribute this to the fact that the universe is NOT looking out for justice, because the universe is a collection of stars and planets that is not conscious of the behavior of its inhabitants. And I know that the conscious being I recognize is not in the business of making sure that my version of justice is done.  Therefore, I am left with trying to teach my child grace.  I don't believe I am equal to this task.  I mentioned the wish-rash, right?

I don't think life is fair.  I don't think everything happens for a reason.  I don't think everything is going to work out to my advantage, if I just wait and see it through.  What I do think is that I can make myself satisfied with what happens if I work hard enough, cognitively speaking.  But I'm not good at expressing these thoughts to a 7 year old.

I want it to be true that if you are good and kind, the world will be good and kind back to you.  I want it to be true that if you look out for the interests of others, other will look out for your interests as well.  I also want it to be true that if I think happy thoughts I can fly to the second star to the right, but I know that's not happening anytime soon. Still, I try to be the change I want to see in others as often as I can, and I try to teach my child to be the same.

However, I also teach my child to tell people to Buzz Off when they are overtly mean, because there are only so many cheeks that kid has, after all.