Take it, Break it and Make Something New

A paraphrase of Shakespeare:

To do or not to do
Whether it is better to suffer what is thrown at you
Or to take action against a sea of boredom.

The lady client who couldn’t stop crying in my piece “ Fun in Therapy” was just putting up with her misery. It hadn’t occurred to her that she could deal with whatever it was that was bothering her in a different way. People like this are in a state of stuck-insidedness, and that condition arises in every case because of a fear of others one way or another.

I use the phrase “thrown at you” meaning that such beings simply let outside happenings get them down, in other words they “take in”. First, they need to break up the old pattern they have got used to and when that has been broken, the final step is to take action and try to do something different, such as bringing her weeping to a stop.

Many people make the mistake of offering sympathy to weepers. That is not what they need. No-one else can make us feel better. That is a necessary job for the self-disturbed person to deal with. Another brilliant quote from Shakespeare is:

Diseases desperate grown
By desperate appliances are relieved.

What we all want to do is to be able to look after ourselves by learning to think properly. In my early days as a therapist, one of my biggest mistakes with a client was to feel sorry for him. He twice tried to commit suicide but he made sure he would be found and taken to hospital. Like a fool, I twice visited him there. I made the mistake that because this man had completed a PhD I felt sure that he must be able to find a job in his field. His bank refused to lend him a small sum of money to get him started with a business to which he seemed well-suited . He was turned down. I lent him the money.

After some two years he wanted to come and see me again. “Are you bringing a cheque with you?” Of course he said he had not. He still wanted help. I sent him off with a flea in his ear.

Feeling sorry for other people was what originally aroused my interest in psychotherapy. I am still interested in the subject but I no longer work with people. I do research, write books and occasionally paint pictures instead.

Whilst I was a therapist I had plenty of free time to see a lot of my daughter and her two sons. I took them for holidays and I saw them every week until they were grown-up. My family is not just a family. They are my best friends because we all have much in common, quite the opposite of the family into which I was born. I am often surprised by friends who comment on how good a mother I must have been. Not at all!

I always did what I wanted to do first and I never tried to teach my children anything, except for a few basic rules and good manners such as going to bed on time and looking after their own bedrooms. They could do what they liked there, within reasonable limits, but they knew they must not mess up the family’s living rooms, kitchen and bathroom. The greatest bonus to me was the fun we all had and still have when we get together. I couldn’t have better friends. They were always doing and making things that interested them. As they grew up and became the people their genes designed them to be it was always a pleasure to see each other.

My friend Jerry Planus always said “Put yourself first. Never do anything you don’t want to do, unless it is essential for your own well being. He had a favourite proverb: “Why do you hate me? I haven’t helped you.” Do too much for people and you deprive them of their ability to do things for themselves.

Do you want to be a skivvy or a victim or a martyr? No. Of course not.

When I had my gallery shop in King’s Parade I employed two or three assistants. One of them never stopped working. When I made morning or afternoon tea she usually said “I don’t have time to drink it. I’ve got too much to do.”

That made me sound like a slave-driver. On the contrary, there was not a lot to do. She made work for herself, doing things like dusting or arranging things in a way that was unnecessary. She was determined to work every minute. Of course there was a reason for this. She had a very demanding mother who planted this habit in her when she was a child. She had made an unnecessary martyr of herself that was hard to ignore.

If you have a habit that annoys other people and probably yourself as well, you can deal with the problem by following these three steps:

  1. identify the bad habit
  2. break it up
  3. make something new.