Lying in savasana at the end of another yoga class, we are given a quote by Mahatma Ghandi. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” As I roll over and come up to a seated position I wonder, “What might it mean to be the change?”
Wishing for Change
Every day I see clients in talk therapy who wish to change aspects of themselves, their loved ones, and the world around them. They want to be less depressed and anxious, feel more valued and loved, and, generally, live happier lives. I am right there with them. How do I help clients find much-needed relief from emotional pain, behavioral difficulties, and challenging life circumstances that, at times, come to dominate their entire existence? What do I have to offer clients, who often have tried to help themselves in every way they know how?
I have studied clinical psychology and completed an advanced training program in psychoanalysis. Over the past 13 years, I have accrued more than 20,000 hours of experience working with troubled adults, teens, and families in various mental health settings, including private practice. I have received more than 3,000 hours of supervision to help me hone my expertise in talk therapy. I have provided more than 1,000 hours of supervision to therapists. But being with clients in their suffering has a way of returning me face-to-face with helplessness, no matter how great my experience and expertise.
Being With Clients
Ghandi’s wisdom, passed onto to me by my yoga teacher today, encourages me to keep being with rather than doing for my clients. After all, my professional practice, like my pastime yoga practice, calls on me to enter into the uncomfortable and often painful realms of mind and body, to breathe into and to explore these tender places. Sometimes I discover an opening, an invitation for greater freedom of movement.
Finding Hope to Be the Change
Then, once again, I find the courage to be with clients as they talk with me about their deepest pain and suffering. Then, once again, I refrain from grasping at reassurances or solutions that often fail to provide more than temporary relief and only confirm the disheartening belief that life-as-it-is-right-now is unbearable. Then clients discover new possibilities that arise as a result of being with me in their most difficult and lonely experiences. Then clients find hope and creativity to be the change they wish to see in the world.