Whenever I went to a conference for psychotherapists I was overcome by the smugness and self-satisfaction that oozes from many of the delegates. I have at times had a strong impulse to leap to my feet and shout out “Knock off your halos! We are all far from perfect!” We ought to realise that we are perpetually on a pilgrimage to understand ourselves better. We are all prejudiced in one way or another and when working with clients we have to remember that we must be aware that whatever we say to them and how we respond to them will be picked up. This is why a sense of humour must be maintained.
In the distant past when Kings had great power, they always had a jester to knock him off his pedestal. There had to be at least this one person to prevent the king from thinking he was always right. We all need to pay attention to our own inner jesters. In other words, watch out for smugness. When I woke up this morning the first thing I did was to read the piece I wrote yesterday.
My inner jester had a good laugh at me. “Yes? So it is very easy for you to read other people’s minds? Think again. How were you so foolish not to have read the nature of the young woman you chose to spend two weeks with at Santa Cruz in my piece “A Big Mistake”?
I hasten to add to what I wrote yesterday, that, like everybody else, I make mistakes. With such a gift as Menschenkenntis, how could I have made such a mistake? Sheer bloody vanity. We can all be won over by flattery whatever we may say. I know I am good at what I do but that doesn’t mean that I am perfect. Thinking about it, I remembered something I read about the great hypnotist, Milton Erickson. He said never be one up on your client if you can help it. Let him find his own way to work through his difficulties. I assume that what he meant was that psychotherapists should act as guides but never tell people what to do. They who come to see us are nearly always lacking in confidence. We need to remain calm and confident ourselves. This isn’t always easy. We are only human and clients can sometimes be very irritating. Once we have established a degree of rapport, we can get down to the nitty gritty.
This is when we can make use of our sense of humour. If we find that difficult, then we must learn to start laughing at ourselves. In my book “Not Just Talking” there are several examples of my putting myself down in a humorous way which results in both of us laughing in unison.
When I was a child I had no sense of humour at all. Life was tough. life was earnest. I don’t know exactly when I began to see humour in every day of my life through watching how people talk to each other. My best tutors were my own children and my grandsons.
Hearty laughter is incredibly therapeutic. I have had some wonderful results with very unhappy people.
One day the telephone rang. It was a woman who was crying so hard that it wasn’t easy to understand her. I interrupted her and told her to speak more slowly. She came to see me. Bob opened the door to let her in. She was crying loudly. She followed me upstairs and she sat down, still crying.
I said in a loud and dominating voice “How long have you been crying?”. “I don’t know” she replied and stopped. She was just about to start again when I said in an even louder voice “Ten years?”
That stopped her in her tracks. She looked at me as though I were mad.
“Can you teach me how to cry?” I said. Silence. I began to make a great effort. I threw myself on the floor, just like a child having a tantrum, and I bellowed as hard as I could without a single tear getting in my way. She was dumbfounded. She sat quite still. Then I quietly got off the floor and sat down. “You see. You don’t have to cry” I said. I laughed with great delight and in a very short time she did the same and we kept it going for a while.
After that she remained calm and told me her story without a tear to be seen. Her spell was broken. She went off happily. She saw me twice more and that was all.
When she had gone, Bob said “Whatever did you do with her? She was in quite a state when I opened the door and shortly after I walked past your room and I heard all this laughing going on.”
“I just did a bit of magic” I said. “Well whatever it was it worked.” Bob had been very sceptical but he soon changed his mind: especially after this event.