Us

I’m really into the show Sense8. I am a person who binges on TV, but rarely on the same show twice. The last time I watched a show obsessively was Grey’s Anatomy and that was only after I had four seasons in my possession. I have one season and I’ve watched it three times because every time I sit down to watch TV (which is also becoming increasingly rarer these days) I honestly can’t think of anything that seems more interesting than re-watching this show.

The common thread in my obsessive watching of TV shows is how they make me feel. I was obsessed with Grey’s at a time in my life where I was convinced life was really dark and and painful, but I was entrenched in the idea that there were bright spots worth pursuing.

Sense8 is similar for me in how it makes me feel, but the message is a little more optimistic. There are several characters, all with their own past wounds and current struggles. Sense8’s message is that a healing life is one where we are intimately known and connected to each other. The only choice we have is to live in each other’s skin to the end that we feel and understand as if it’s our own life. I love this message because it resonates with one of my deepest core beliefs: To be known intimately and adored for what makes you authentic, is the most exquisite part of this life.

There’s a scene where Riley, one of the Sensates, is discussing her life in Iceland and the suicide rates in spring when the winter clears. She is speaking with another friend and they discuss their mutual feelings of hopelessness about life. He says something I could relate to, especially in a moment Friday when I awoke to learn about another attack in France, a week after two American black men were senselessly shot and the ensuing violence in Dallas, where two police officers were killed in response to more black killings. This is two weeks in the world. Oh also, Turkey is going through a political revolution and people just keep killing each other. I’ve stopped listening to NPR, my dearly loved news radio, because my heart cannot take it anymore.

I got to admit it, sometimes I feel this way – especially when I see how awful we can all be to each other. I don’t understand how people can be filled with such anger and rage that they want to kill strangers. If anything, I find myself feeling sad and wanting to do something good to counteract all the hurt in the world. When I start realizing that this is human nature – we’ve been killing each other since our inception as a race – I start to believe that we are the problem. We are the evil. We are hopelessly destined to continue killing each other and those of us who have any shred of compassion can’t bear the weight of watching it helplessly.

I just got back from a trip in Europe. It was amazing and a feast for my soul. I inhaled so much inspiration, beauty, awareness and perspective. One thing I noticed while we were there that many of the ancient cities had arenas built strictly for the sport of watching people murder each other. Of course now we are more civilized. We have Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead and Criminal Minds and… all the entertainment we could want to watch each other die. What is our obsession with this and why can’t STOP KILLING EACH OTHER?

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I’m not omniscient and I am willing to admit that because I have very strong beliefs about how things should be handled in our world and how poorly they seem to be handled now, that surely I can be wrong simply because there is someone out there who disagrees with me. I just so frustrated that we can’t just admit it’s broken and fix it together. We’re so caught up in blaming each other and fighting about what causes the pain, ignoring the ways in which we’ve already discovered the solution. 

I think it’s our obsession with our differences. In Europe, there’s a history of difference. We never used to cross paths with those different from us because of our ability to travel outside of a small area, relative to the size of the world. European cities are walkable in ways I have rarely found in American cities. Infrastructure used today was often built before we had any major modes of mass transportation. Many roads are so narrow that only a human could navigate its path.

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Then we discovered a way to go just a little further. We found more people like us, trying to scratch out an existence. They had made different decisions on how to thrive, had evolved in small ways to survive. We found those who were different from us, but who were still ‘us’. We invented ways to get further, to see more. We claimed land and we didn’t want to share it, assuming there were more people like us, out there to claim the land we claimed. We became obsessed with the idea that there wasn’t enough to go around, so we had to forcibly claim it as ours, even if we had no certainty there were more like us – hungry to live in prosperity, created to survive – and we knew there would be more. 

We live in a world that has been crafted around the idea of scarcity. That there is not enough to go around to satisfy every craving. Therefore, we split ourselves into our differences: the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. It creates epic struggles, deep pains and often leads to the death of some so the few can have their most important wants.

I wish we lived in a world of abundance. One where there is enough to go around because we all recognize that when pain exists, it ripples through the ‘us’ because we are more alike than we are different. The European Union is a perfect example of this truth. You have countries with strong economies who are supporting countries with weaker economies and those strong economies have expectations about how these countries who they support will behave to give back to their financiers. England leaves the EU for more independence, seemingly without facing the hard knowledge that we are all intertwined – independence is an illusion. Our economies are dependent on each other. People are  more connected than they have ever been and information is in abundance. We cannot shut ourselves away from the world, because the world forces us to be together, simply by our geography. We will never be able to be isolated from the abundance around us, while not sharing the abundance within us.
I will hold on to the idea that one day, our eyes and hearts will be clearer and we will see this world for what it truly is – one giant experiment to see if we can figure out how to love each other with the shared understanding it is our only certainty to abundance for all. When I deny love to another because of their difference with me, I deny the truth that no matter the difference, the similarity between us is still greater. We all want a life of prosperity, peace and love for ourselves and that life can only be achieved when we recognize we cannot achieve it with certainty until we ensure it for our neighbor. As they say in Sense8: ‘I am also a we’. 

Flow

When the career you’ve chosen in life is one that makes you happy, but isn’t necessarily valued by society, much less some of your friends (*cough* counseling *cough*), you being to really ponder why you chose the career you did. In my case, I have really been thinking hard about it. Not only was finding the right job a struggle for me here, but I’m in a city dominated by left-brained thinkers who (I find) to value the softer sciences less. If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist in the world of most people I walk by on the streets in Seattle.

I thought back to why I became a counselor in the first place; why I was so certain this was the career for me. I’ve come up with all my reasons and then some, but I’ve had this internal struggle because life isn’t just about doing what you love, is it? You have to put food on the table, you have to put clothes on your back, and in the future, I’d like to put clothes on my child’s back and food in his/or her mouth. Will doing what I love allow me those things? Things I love secondary to counseling? Traveling and eating well. Do I want to give those up to facilitate my day job? Can you just ‘do what you love’ and get away with it? How important is it to do what you love?

Well, that’s subjective. The more time that goes on in my life, the more I realize that plenty of people on the earth were not raised with this notion of ‘do what you love’ and now have jobs that facilitate lots of other things, like traveling, but at a cost. They give up 40+ hours of happiness and job satisfaction a week for a good vacation and luxury goods. Some are OK with it. Most are not. Some people are lucky enough that they love doing things that pay a lot of money. Those people suck. Just kidding… I hate you. No, I’m just jealous. Pssshhh.

Either way, this has pushed me to think about the idea of even knowing that you are happy. Plenty of people struggle with finding a satisfying job, relationship, and lifestyle. There’s a whole area of counseling for people who just don’t know what jobs will make them happy. I found something I love to do, but why do I love to do it?

Because when I counsel, I flow.

No, not that flow, although I am a fantastic rapper. Do not doubt.

When I counsel someone, I am so immersed in what I’m doing, I achieve flow. Flow is a somewhat meditative-like state where the whole world evaporates until it’s you + the task you are involved in. With counseling, I feel alive speaking to others, solving their problems, and providing empathy. It’s been that way since I can remember. From the point of self-awareness I can remember, I’ve always felt so alive having deep conversations with people, feeling trusted, providing support, and everything else a counselor does. My brain is wired this way.

I got an e-mail from a reader (hi!), who commended me for being a therapist because the work can be so difficult and really just wear a person down, listening to so much heartache, tragedy, and sometimes knowing nothing will ever be the way it should be for a client. That is tough, I won’t lie to you about that one. But, as Jesse tells me when I feel doubt about this career choice, I have never acted more alive, more satisfied, and more content than the times I’m counseling. It fills me up inside. I picture my mind like staticky radio, all garbled and fuzzy, but when I’m counseling (and/or writing), that radio is the most perfect frequency you’ve ever heard. The sound is crisp, the message is clear, and everything else falls to the side.

So, should you do what you love? Do you even know what you love? Start with flow. Then go from there. I’m lucky that I have a wonderfully supportive partner who reminds me it’s not what you do, it’s how hard you work at it and believe in yourself (for the most part). It’s all about values. How much do you value your own contentment, your feeling of happiness, and how you measure your impact on the world? Those things, as much as I want to admit money matters, matter more to me. I need flow in my life because it makes me so happy to be alive. It creates this effervescent feeling that makes my heart feel lighter and makes me proud to walk this earth. I wouldn’t trade my flow for anything. Now, could I get it doing something else? Sure, but right now, I’m happy in this current.

Do you achieve flow? How?

A common example I’ve heard is when you drive somewhere, get there, and then don’t remember how you got there because you were so immersed in the process.

Mind Hacks: Solution-Focused Therapy {vlog}

It’s about time. You’ve read 50 Shades of Grey and now you know about Solution-Focused Therapy – the hot new (or not so new) approach to counseling.

This vlog was created to share some of what goes on in counseling. It’s not just me sitting there and nodding, I’m actually working and using a conceptual framework to fix the problem – always. For anyone who is curious what counseling looks like, how I use SFT, or really just wants to keep watching me in front of my shower curtain (yes, the cat is out of the bag… I live in a studio apartment with terrible lighting!) yet again, then watch this video.