one of my very favorite professors used to talk about the light and dark in each person. i had his class toward the beginning of my program, and i was still not quite accepting the idea that i wanted to be a shrink. especially terrifying to me was the idea of being influenced by the darkness of others as we did therapy. at that point i was really struggling with my empathy and boundaries. i felt like my skin and my brain and my heart were a malleable wall, i felt the physical and emotional pain of others as they shared their stories with me, and i was afraid i wouldn’t be able to give that pain back… that it would stick to me and infect me and send me downward into my own scary places.
we wrote short reflection papers at the end of each class and he would read and give us feedback. one day i felt i had found my solution: if clients triggered me into darkness, i must trigger myself back into light with the little tricks to make myself happy. he said such an amazing thing in response: “why? go with and use the flow of light and dark.”
that was a square into a circle peg for me. i could allow for darkness? a person with a sometimes significant depression, someone who learned to please and predict needs for others, someone who no one should like unless she is smiling, happy, encouraging… someone like me could not only allow but accept and embrace a darkside? does… not… compute…
he broke my brain open in a lot of ways. in particular with this and direct communication. i think basically he is my anti-people-pleaser serum. and i’m so thankful for it. i thought of this because yesterday i was in a funk when i got to work and i almost snapped (passive aggressively, of course) on my first table for not allowing me to script out my introductions and instead telling me what specifications to follow with their water orders. when i walked away from that table i was cursing them out, then habitually telling myself i needed to go into kind-gracious-loving mode. but then i remembered that darkness is ok and i went with the flow. allowed a little rage and self-righteous indignation. told myself it was allowed. then began to laugh at myself. eventually i got to kind-gracious-loving mode and by the end of the meal the table was all compliments and a 30% tip! the difference was, i didn’t decide part of who i am (my darkness) was wrong and needed to be fixed. i made room for it so it came and went.
i’m also really thankful that i’ll get to work with this professor once and maybe twice again before i finish school. i wonder what else i will learn?