Thursday, December 21, 2006

quirky things about my job...

I fairly often have people referred to me for evaluations. And from time to time the request is accompanied by something vaguely resembling an apology. Which usually means they're frustrated as heck at dealing with whomever they're sending my way -- and possibly concerned about whether I will stop taking their referrals after I see whomever they're sending.

Most typically, this happens when they're sending people to me who are angry. And this is particularly acute when the evaluation isn't so much voluntary as "hey, this is what you have to do if you ever want to get 'the system' off of your back."

In other words, many of these individuals resent being sent to me, see no particular reason to discuss what's going on in their lives with me, and basically feel like anything they might reveal has a good chance of somehow being used against them.

And then there's the ones who choose to try and pick a fight with me. Honestly, that particular approach used to puzzle me, even make me a little anxious. Now I just feel bad for them. I think that's because I've become pretty good at not getting sucked into an argument. For example:

Client: This whole thing is stupid
Me: I'm pretty sure I'd feel exactly the same way if I was you.
Client: Then why do you keep asking me such stupid questions?
Me: I certainly haven't meant to offend you with any of the questions I've asked. Could you let me know which questions really bother you?
Client: No, it's just this whole *@!& thing! This is pointless!
Me: I understand. You're feeling like there's absolutely no reason why 'the system' is in your life right now -- and you sure as heck don't see a reason to come see me, right?
Client: (clearly reluctant to agree with me) right...
Me: Gosh, so what's that like for you, having to come in here even if you don't want to?
Client: (typically falls silent, puts their head down)

Usually these are folks who really feel most comfortable if they can start a fight. They know how a fight works. They feel a sense of control. I'm taking that away from them, and honestly, most of them are close to the point of tears when their efforts to pick a fight with me aren't working.

It would almost feel cruel to take that from them, but I have come to believe that doing so is actually very helpful to them. It forces them to confront whatever fear, pain, or other emotion is really underneath all of their anger. If I'm lucky, I can get them talking about it. And that is where healing becomes possible for them.

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