As time goes by
My son told me this morning that he wants to be a baby again. Without thinking too much about it I told him that time only goes forwards and that we can't stop it or make it go backwards. This confused him because his Winnie and Wilbur books would have you believe otherwise. However, reflecting on the year that is now ending, time does seem to have taken on a new quality in the pandemic. One client recently said to me that in 2020 the pandemic didn't bother her, she decided to make the most of it, see it as an opportunity, it was like time had stopped she said, in a good way, she added. But when she came to me in 2021 that had all changed. It was one thing to waste one year but quite another to waste two.
Discussing this with my therapist colleagues I've started to realize how much the longevity of the pandemic is affecting our work. We are seeing a deeper, more profound reflection around what has happened and what has been lost. In 2020 we were fire fighting, in 2021 we are picking over the embers, wondering which ones will re-ignite, wondering what we can enjoy and how, and for how long. This seems to have had the effect that our clients are more in contact with profound philosophical issues like life, death and time than ever before.
As I'm writing this I'm wondering if it's too depressing to publish! However, as Brene Brown says, "vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity and change" and I'm happy to offer up a little of my own when it's helpful to my clients. When working with patients who were coming to the end of their lives, the great Dr. Irvin Yalom said that his clients seemed to find it helpful when he was courageous enough say to them in some way; "it's OK, I'll go deep with you", allowing space to explore ideas about life, death, pain and loss. https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/blog/details/1400/irvin-yalom-on-the-possibilities-of-aging.
Of course it's unusual for therapists to be confronting the same problems as their clients. Most of us avoid taking clients whose problems are too close to home so that we can maintain enough distance to be helpful. The fact that we're all experiencing the pandemic in some way at the same time means that going deep with our clients at the moment is going deep on our own turf which can be very frightening, but I honestly believe that it's the best we can offer our clients at the moment. So, to my clients and future clients I say, as Yalom did, "it's OK, I'll go deep with you". I'll be as brave and vulnerable as I can. Because for now, it might be the best we can do.