You Can't Just "Let It Go":
What I've Learned As a Psychotherapist (part 2)
A second consequence of our underestimation of the power of character, habit, and early training is that current therapists are often very scared of dependent clients. Now I know that managed care will not pay for 2 visits per week unless they see a truckload of paperwork, but in my opinion, it follows that once we see the power of the fog and the rock, we will automatically and naturally welcome the idea that clients automatically and naturally need more time and assistance from therapists who offer dynamite, sunshine, and a whole new world. New worlds do not come easy and fast. The wise minister, Rabbi, or therapist knows we all need all the help we can get. In that sense, I have noticed in many of my colleagues and in myself the growing realization that it takes a village to raise a child. Community is what adults need. One therapy hour per week, one worship service per week is not enough. Actually, we are all very dependent!
A third consequence to our "just let it go" mentality is that we will not notice the tremendous importance of various tools that are absolutely essential if we can't just let it go. The wise healer knows that time and more time and even more time is needed. Also, patience will be absolutely essential, especially the kind in the Bible where patience in Greek is macrothumos. Macro means "long" and thumos means "passion," so to be patient is to have a long passion. Another necessary tool will be what I call "parallel sympathy"—the ability to recognize that if we can't lose 10 pounds, stop biting our nails, or be on time for breakfast, then it isn't so easy to just say no to heroin! I assume, without actual experience, that heroin is more of a high than biting one's nails and cocaine is more addictive than lima beans.
In this connection, let me say a word about forgiveness and parallel empathy. Have you ever noticed how easy it is for you and me to ask Joe to forgive the guy who punched him while you and I haven't forgiven the deacon who didn't like our sermon? Have you ever noticed in the Bible how St. Paul, St. Peter, or St. James invites us to forgive and "honor all men" and "do not return reviling for reviling," and then in the next chapter they are calling their enemies "wild beasts that are born to be caught and killed?"
A final treasured tool that becomes more indispensable if we can't just let go of our fears, guilt, and rock-solid inner world is the unacknowledged helper of humanity. Here I speak of action—the ability of the soul, body, and mind to move toward the new world with actions that create over that new world over time. The widow gets out and connects with people. The unseen young man risks asking for a date. The young woman finds new and better people to live for than her psychotic mother. The teenager finds out by talking that a boy finds her pretty. The woman inside her prison starts hiding money under her mattress and at least gets to go on a trip to visit her brother, who will tell her a hundred times that she deserves better.
People need insight into their unconscious and they need healers to journey with them, but action repeated again and again is the dispensable creator of better worlds inside us and outside us. If life is as easy as "just let it go" dictates, we will underestimate the importance of repeated, repeated action. Thus, we will go to Barnes and Noble looking for the books that promise us the easy path and ease secrets to the new world—and then we won't have to notice how cruel the world is and how powerful evil is. We will then underestimate the beauty and wisdom that is within the Judaeo-Christian tradition and the psychotherapeutic tradition—for both traditions have for centuries insisted on the fight that is spirituality and thereby have emphasized habits, practices, daily rituals, and prayer without ceasing.
"The way is hard that leads to life," said Jesus, and that is another way of saying that you can't "just let it go." Our victories are hard-won. The fog is thick and moves off the coast slowly. It will be interesting to hear from my readers and listeners what they think of this rock and fog of a paper. I am easily willing to be kinder to lima beans. The ironic thing, of course, is that much of what I have thought here I really treasure and I just can't let it go. Still, I welcome your light, wisdom, and dynamite in response.
-- From a lecture delivered by Bob Beverley at the occasion of the merger of Northeast Counseling Center and FRMH of Duchess and Orange, and his installation as Associate Director of the newly merged and named Northeast Counseling Center, June 5, 2001.