What’s Your Stuff?
It is absolutely critical as therapists and helping professionals that we know what’s “our stuff” (i.e. what is our issue or issues) and what is “their stuff.” What underlying experiences, values, beliefs, trauma and family of origin/cultural components impact me, the self of the therapist, and how I experience others?
Furthermore, how do people experience me? What aspect of how people experience me is connected to who I am versus who that person is who is interacting with me or observing me?
Generally speaking there are 2 camps of people as it relates to being a helping professional and understanding one’s motivation and unresolved or resolving issues. Two camps in which several sub-categories exist. Those two major camps are as follows:
- I know my stuff.
- I know my issues and shortcomings and fears and I want everyone to know what my issues are because this is also a major aspect of my identity and the reason I am a helping professional.
- I know my issues and challenges, etc… and I am selective and private about when and with whom I share my stuff; it has influenced me as a therapist in some ways, however I am not necessarily interested in selecting that area for niche practice.
- I know my issues; I’m very private about them. I talk to my therapist about them and perhaps 1 or 2 other trusted intimates.
- I don’t have any stuff.
- I don’t know my stuff; I feel fine and can’t think of any issues I may have had growing up or now might have as an adult. Maybe other therapists need therapy but not me.
- I don’t have any stuff because I have resolved all of my issues and I don’t have any new issues because I accept myself as I am and I try not to “over analyze” everything about myself.
- I don’t know if I have any issues…I think I’m okay. The work I am doing is probably fine and unaffected. After all, if I had “stuff,” surely I would know it.
The Truth Is….
We all have issues. We all experience problems or challenges. We all have some level of emotional or intrapsychic pain. Some of this “stuff” is resolved or resolving and then there are other new, evolving issues that are on the horizon.
It is a mistake to think we will get to a place where we will no longer have any issues. It is a mistake to think we will “arrive” at some point where we have no difficulty at all. Too many of us imagine the lives of others as being stress free and problem free.
We resent our struggles and think of them as “unfair” and as an intrusion into our “real life,” where we will have few or no issues that need resolution or acceptance.
Often the challenges we have in our work are a reflection of a challenge we have in our life. Don’t think you can go to work to “fix” others and remain an un-examined self. You may be able to assist people by hanging out on the surface of their problems. But sooner our later, they will surpass the therapist’s depth if the therapist is not on a reflective journey about their own life. Or worse, we won’t be helping people effectively because of our wounds.
Some of us “helping professionals” hide in our work.
- We do this by working with those who are very ill or staying in chaotic environments; so of course, by comparison we are fine.
- We also hide by working too much.
- We hide by making work our primary path in life and forsake other aspects of our identity.
- We hide by steering clear of people who challenge us.
- We hide by seeking status and accolades; promotions and accomplishments.
- We hide by not sharing our whole selves with anyone because we fear judgment or being seen as broken.
Living With Your Stuff
If you are struggling in your career, in relationships, with health & well being, financially or spiritually…look no further than your stuff. Yes, of course others have an impact on us. However, when we pay attention and we know what is our “stuff”… we don’t have to blame and externalize… we don’t have to be overly self critical.
We can accept our whole selves and all of our feelings – joy, sadness, contentment, anger, love, fear… and express our whole selves. You don’t have to be perfect and everyone doesn’t have to like you or approve of you. There is a place for you and all of your stuff…there is a place among compassionate people and within a compassionate self.
Copyright © 2017 Ruby Blow. All rights reserved.