Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dealing With Shit: Part 2

I'm going to start this one by drawing a rough line connecting financial planners and psychologists.

Note, though that when I say psychologist I am not explicitly excluding 'psychiatrists' I'll treat psychiatry as a subset of psychology. Personally I hope never to see a psychiatrist because none of the issues I have stem from serious chemical imbalances in my brain, but if I was diagnosed with something, I'd seek one out.

I'm going to start by way of analogy with financial planners. There are things financial planners can do for you, valuable services that can be rendered. They can take a holistic view at your financial health and then consider who you are and then do things for you.

Two people can both take $10,000 to the same financial planner and get two very different pieces of advice. The advice will differ on the clients circumstances. Particularly it will almost always differ on what the client can accept -

Joe Common can't risk losing the $10,000 he has scrimped and saved for. He is only going to be advised to put it into a low-risk asset. These will generate low returns, and are as many frighteningly discover, not actually 'risk free'.

Martin Rare can risk losing the $10,000 he is just after the highest potential return. He'll be advised to take on something riskier and more profitable. Thus one of the heartbreaking things about the world is that often the rich are the only ones in a position to get richer.

And so to, I suspect (entirely untested) but the value of a psychologist is going to be in what you can accept from them. Just as the value of a financial planner is what you are willing to accept.

In fact I'll go so far as to say the value of expertise in general is how willing you are to defer to and accept that expertise.

But just as there are good and bad financial planners, there are good and bad psychologists.

The catch of this all is, I don't have any objective standard that I can tell you to determine whether your psychologist is good or bad.

All I would suggest is that while we carry around most of our problems in our day to day interactions, we probably all only seek help addressing them when they boil over into some issue. People, me, you, go to see a psychologist in a state of distress.

If you don't feel a lot more relaxed just from interacting with your psychologist, try another one.

That's all I can suggest on the good/bad front.

Now not sure how to proceed in explaining how getting help dealing with shit is done, I'm just going to list why I like psychologists.

1. They are removed from your life.
2. They have seen it all before.
3. They don't consider the social.
4. They are confidential.
5. They can inform your behaviour.

They are in other words completely unlike your friends, family and colleagues. They have one agenda and that agenda is to give you good advice. (presuming they are professional enough to not give the agenda of running a profitable practice precedence).

So starting with being removed from your life, this means that they don't carry bias and expectation about who you should be, who you should associate with, what you should be doing. Their advice is not going to be tainted with their own vicarious aspiration for you to do law. Their advice isn't going to take into account that they never liked your boyfriend Steve anyway.

They will be honest, and they will need to obtain information about you. Their competency I guess can be judged at how good they are at getting the required info out of you. The value will be judged by how honest you are.

Next is that they have seen it all before. We like to think we are unique and special, and we are. But our problems aren't necessarily unique at all. And as bitter a pill as it is to swallow, YOU PROBABLY WANT TO BE a textbook case of something.

I have no basis for saying this, just a strong suspicion but those I now most skeptical of a psychologists value go in in some form of denial. I can't imagine anybody who wants to be told that they are clinically depressed, bipolar, narcissistic, a victim, in grief or in denial, they value of a psychologist is that they will tell us that we are. Make us aware.

The first psychologist I saw, Joe, met me when I was having uncontrollable emotional breakdowns, was sleeping one hour a day, losing a lot of weight rapidly, completely scatterbrained and unable to escape my own life. He told me I was grieving, then gave me stuff to do.

It sounds strange but what Joe could do that none of my support group could (at that time) was tell me what was happening to me and give me shit to do. All my other friends saw the people, the circumstances and the fallout, he just saw a run-of-the-mill case of grief.

So whatever diagnosis you fear, that is precisely the domain of expertise you should expect from your psychologist. Hope that their is a textbook, and understand that there is no need to join some kind of 'deppressive pride' group and where t-shirts or to reveal that you have an inferiority complex in job interviews. You can keep that shit to yourself, just try, fucking TRY and following the textbook on how to address it.

Moving onto the lack of social constraints in conversing with a psychologist, well I did say I might elaborate on my 'superiority complex' which was not the basis of my recent sessions, nor have I been profiled or diagnosed with such, but I'll let it play.

Suppose I am really great, think of how many people it is possible to discuss the problems that arise from being so great with? In day to day social situations, fucking nobody. Even your best friend is likely to say 'get the fuck over yourself' and these are important social reinforcements.

But in a psychologists office you can relax such concerns, Matt Damon can say what a fucking joke the Harvard Mathematics professor and Fields Medal scholar is and fear no repurcussions. The psychologist is not (SHOULD not) lean forward and say 'oh boy you come all over yourself don't you.'

Similarly it is the psychologists profession and job that you shouldn't have to worry when you tell them about your Gender identity conflicts, your sexual preference, your hatred of the British. You can actually discuss all these things without fear of judgement. Which is to say, social judgement 'do I want to be this persons friend' but they should, absolutely should be appraising everything you discuss' effect on your wellbeing.

And more basically when it comes from the freedom of social conventions, the psychologists session is all about you. It's supposed to be. It is guilt free. You can thus talk about your envy of your colleagues promotion without being conscious of the fact that your best friend's partner walked out on her while carrying his child.

The fact that it is in confidence should need no further explanation.

The biggest advantage is that they can inform your behaviour. I ah... am not ready to discuss what I am supposed to be doing (am doing, kind of) post my latest sessions, but the first psychologist I saw got me to stop focusing on what the person I was grieving for was doing with their life and focus on my own.

I maintain that this was the single most productive process I ever went through in my life. This blog was started shortly after I did those sessions. He got me doing stuff, in control of relaxing, in control of moving forward, in control of rebuilding my life into something I actually wanted to live.

He did this in 3 hour long sessions over 4 weeks. It was the best investment of time in my life.

It will probably take me a couple of years to truly judge how productive my time was with the latest sessions, but even the immediate benefits, of getting me to relax enough to focus on my exhibition and even finally accept what I am, are coming together for me. The rest I still have to get done, but I am dealing with it.

Let's all now take a breath

Now I was thinking the other day about advertising, specifically almost every field of education has an academia-practice gap. And with advertising you probably have one of the best examples of what that gap is.

For all the sophisticated research and theories of how to advertise, how to influence people, how to make great creative and clever campaigns, the thing that is going to invalidate all the knowledge and expertise you are taught is: the client.

The client has the money, and however good you are at making ads to persuade consumers, practice is going to revolve around how good you are at pursuading clients to listen to you and do it your way.

Presuming you are competent.

And I suspect like any industry a (hopefully large) minority of psychologists are actually competent.

But you don't control the competence of your psychologist, you control you being the client that fucks it up by invalidating their expertise.

If you don't want to deal with your shit, it is not on the psychologist to convince you you should.

I imagine somewhere in some psychologists practice they sort patients into 'cooperative' and 'adversarial'. Adversarial are going to be of high value to the psychologist, and of little value to themselves.

If you go in there, with the precommitment to not accept certain diagnosis or even characterisations of your behaviour, then you are making it hard for yourself.

And maybe it needs to be.

I hesitate to talk about this, because while I'm sure my psychologist keeps my confidence in day to day life I don't really keep my own, so I'll hypotheticalise this to protect the innocent -

In my first session with my psychologist say we spoke about a friend's problem that effected me and was not my own. My psychologist hypothetically said 'he identifies as a girl but needs to accept that he is a boy.' and it rang true with me, and it was something I had thought for as long as I knew him/her, and thus such a casual off-hand observation was probably a profound and confronting truth to them.

For them to come to accept the same conclusion we did in my session would probably be a long and emotionally painful process. In exactly the same way as it is easy to say 'stop drinking' and much harder to do when you are dependant.

I'm going to stop shy of saying necessary but will say that just because something is painful and hard to achieve though doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile.

I mean I know I only control myself, and am responsible for my own happiness but it still doesn't mean when somebody is telling me that in their professional opinion I am something I don't want to be, I don't still need to be told 6 times to hear it once.

I know that my inclination will be to resist, but I also know that my quality of life will be improved once I understand the why, and know how to do the what.

That is how you deal with shit.

Very, very few people do. But it's worth trying.

Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest. ~ Mark Twain

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