By Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.
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Down the Highway
We dont receive wisdom; we must discover
it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.
long time ago, in the early days of my practice, I had a client say to me, Okay,
Ive been in therapy for months now, yet I still have the problems I had before. How
come all of these problems havent gone away? Whats the deal?
said, No, youre fine. If I understand what youre saying, what you call
the problems, will probably not go away. Theyre part of who you are. I mean, the
difficulties and loose ends that you and I find in everyday life are part of who we are as
looked up at me and said, I came in here wanting you to promise me that I could stop
being such an ass in my personal life. You only told me that I could be shown the problem,
I never heard you say that I could find the solution. I want someone to give me a pill or
something in order to make me better.
rubbed my hands against my face and said to him, Thats not the way this deal
works. I may get thrown out of town for telling you this, but, the truth is, real growth
does not come from the wisdom of a psychologist, it comes from inside of you.
why am I here? he asked.
sat there for a long moment of silence. Finally I said, Let me tell you a story. I
once worked in a hospital. Every day I would show up and do my job. I got to know the
nursing staff and they got to know me.
morning this woman with a white uniform walked around the corner. I had never met her
before, so I stood up and said, Hi, Im Steve.
looked at me and boomed back in a deep voice, Yes, I understand you are the
Psychologist Intern or something.
spoke in a broken accent, I thought maybe it was Swedish. Im Nurse
Svenson. I work for twenty years in hospital. I do my job, she said simply. Then she
turned and walked away.
the next few days I asked other people on the ward about our Nurse Svenson and all of the responses were the
same. Everyone alluded to her bedside manner as
non-existent, but she was a first rate
morning I walked into the room of a patient who was twenty years old. He had a heart
defect that was only discovered two years before. Most of his life was normal, but every
few months his body would fall apart and he would find himself near death.
surgery was required to address the problem. I walked into the room while Nurse Svenson
was changing a dressing. I didnt want to bother them so I sat on the other bed for a
hate this, he said. I cant move and I cant do stuff that I like to
do. Being here sucks.
does this mean, sucks? she asked while she worked.
know, blows, he said.
bites, he said. Hey! That hurts!
changing this dressing. Yes, it probably does hurt.
all bullshit if you ask me, he said.
know, she said, when I come to this country people tell me that my way of
speaking was bad, but I think you are worse. You talk bad. What are you trying to
trying to say that I dont like being in the hospital. I dont like feeling so
helpless. And I dont like being poked and prodded with needles and knives. I want to
be playing basketball and living my life, he said.
worked and thought and soon replied. I tell you something important. In my job, most
people complain about being in hospital. Most people say they belong somewhere else. So
listen to me now, do what I tell you--when you feel good, act like it. Then you play. When
you feel sick, you belong in hospital. Because when you are sick, this is the best
place for you. The only thing worse is to feel sick and act healthy.
paused and said, That could kill someone like you. You feel bad, get help, because
you are the only one who knows how you feel.
I have a gift for understanding people, I always have. Believe me when I tell you, that
was one of the most subtle yet powerful things I have ever heard anyone say.
all are confronted with the same choices as my young friend in the hospital was. We can
complain and moan about this person, that person, our boss, our lover, our family. How
they dont understand us or respect us. How they dont give us what we want when
we want it.
we can make everyone else out to be the bad guy. We can stew in our hurt and anger,
feeling entitled, believing that somebody else has to change.
believe me, thats not the ticket out. The only person we have control over in this
world is ourselves. We all need to learn to pay attention to how were feeling. And
when were feeling badly, we need to have people we can turn to so that we can make
our world feel safe again. Thats exactly the potential that lives within each and
every one of
us--learning how to create relationships that support us rather than tear us down.
dont pretend that its easy to transform our relationships from what they are
to what we would like them to be. But I absolutely assure you that it can be done.
been talking about the process of how to make molehills out of mountains by using a very
simple skill--pinpointing the issue. But dont overlook this fundamental truism.
Everything Ive talked to you about in this book has a simple beginning. Everything
starts with honoring yourself. Know that you deserve to have relationships that are
emotionally safe--relationships that nurture your soul. You can walk away from situations
that are not safe for you. At the same time, be bold enough to walk towards those
relationships that will enrich your life.
even more than that, you need to become more sensitized to your own unique levels of
tolerance for the emotional intensity thats created when you build
relationship-bridges. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you always have
choices as to how you will respond when youre feeling emotionally provoked by the
very human fears about getting close to another person. These fears will often disguise
themselves in the conflicts that arise in your relationships. But youre slowly
developing the skills to successfully unmask your fears and sensitivities.
Let me leave you with
this one last thought. It bears repeating one last time. I hope these words ring in your
ears as you and your partner bravely begin the process of transforming your relationship.
Be kind. Have a respectful attitude towards your partner, maintain a loving attitude
towards yourself. Persevere, even through the darkest moments when discouragement soaks
your spirit. Rest assured that mastering the skills we have discussed in this book will
enable you to navigate the sometimes rocky roads we come upon when we are building better
bridges with the people who matter most.
chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your
children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs
free. Learn how
to in Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. Recovery book series.