And who I am needs no excuses – or masks.
You might have noticed – or maybe you hadn’t, who knows – the tumbleweed piling up and blowing over my blog in recent months. I guess for those who read my blog diligently (probably only by two sisters, out of four siblings. Ouch.) I want to explain why I haven’t been writing as often as I have wanted to.
And boy have a I wanted to.
Everyday I would would be on the bus or in work and would think to myself “hey, why don’t you write about that?” and I’d take out my phone and go into my drafts, start the first sentence and bam! It would hit me.
The burden of starting out as a therapist. See, we had a day on ethics last academic year and since then, I just haven’t been the same. Twenty four years it’s taken me to begin to realise a lifelong dream and at the final hurdle, things I had never thought about are being forced into the spotlight. And the most central of it all – What does it really mean to be a therapist?
I realise now that I hadn’t really thought about how my own personal life would/might/could influence my new career. What type of therapist did I want to be? did I want to have a job or work in private practice? Did I want to specialise in something? Were there areas I really didn’t want to work in? ? In a profession that works mainly by word of mouth, at least in private practice what would that mean, working in a country where not only am I still relatively, a stranger after fourteen years, a woman, a black woman, a black African woman, an atheist black African woman?
To be entirely honest with you, I hadn’t really, really reeeally thought about it.And the truth is psychotherapy as a trade still works widely on word of mouth and people’s experiences of you as a person and there began to be these questions inside me…
For example, I belong to a gazillion Facebook groups as myself. They have helped me a lot with expanding my views on the world, connecting with people, with dilemmas I’ve had, with parenting, breastfeeding, being a working parent and I started over the summer to withdraw from them. Worried about how I would be perceived, not offering my opinion, not wanting to present myself in a way that who knows, next year someone might say,
“Oh my god, that person is a therapist? She belonged to my Facebook group and she is an absolute cow! I wouldn’t dare go near her.”
Or that, Thor forbid, my ultimate fear, what if a potential client or an existing client read my blog!
I’ve been writing for over four years now. Would I have to go back and erase stuff? Are there things that made me appear (gulp!) less that a compassionate, trustworthy (read perfect) human being? What if, what if, what if….
And I would find myself drafting a post and censoring myself and not wanting to swear as much as I wanted to or wonder was that “therapyist” enough (whatever that is!) and then I’d just delete the whole thing and go have chocolate instead.
You know, shit like that.
In a way, I had been sucking myself unknowingly into the persona of the therapist.
Jung described persona as a mask we wear, designed to make an impression on other people, to fit in to what society expects of you but also acts to hide/mask (- geddit?) our true nature from people. Every profession and title has it. From the boring accountant, the pious priest, the caring mother, the evil lawyer, the distant father, teh meddling mother-in-law, the drunk uncle, the only child, you name it, and you’ve probably got this “type” in mind.
And without knowing it, I had sold myself on “the therapist”. This perfect being who floats down from their ivory tower into the therapist’s chair and waves a magic wand and solves all your problems. And of course this person can do no wrong, has their own life totally worked out and is an exemplary balanced sane example of a human being.
What a load of bs. right? I mean, I can’t believe I fell for it myself, and I’m like, in my own head all the time dude. All the time!
It’s like I forgot the basic tenet of being in any caring profession.
That I am human too. That the best way to be with people is to be with yourself.
I can only be me. And some people will like it, some people will hate it, but I can’t be this false person because I’d only be setting myself up to fail. The relationship that happens in therapy goes beyond being perfect. It’s about being imperfect, about accepting that and finding meaning regardless of the pain that we may have in life. And a perfect being can’t tell you that because really, what do they know about pain? They’re effing perfect.
So I think I’ve found my mojo again.
I’ll just be me, because hey, everyone else it already taken.
Funny enough I still think therapists have it all figured our or know how to figure it out if they want to. But then we all like to talk to people who are not afraid to share their flaws because then we can relate. I am sure your blogs pieces show this. Which is a good thing. Hope we have finally defeated the writer’s block
That’s really the paradox of it, you can’t help someone heal if you don’t know what it’s like to be wounded yourself. And yup, you’ve just said the exact persona that people envisage when they think ‘therapist’. Which is really scary for me starting out, but not so scary anymore.
Oh, you cannot know how much this resonates with me. Fantastic post, glad you are “back” (hoping to come “back” myself some day soon 🙂 )
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Thank you Emily. I hope you are also back blogging soon because your blog is simply wonderful.
If nothing else is accurate, I think all the TV shows like ‘In Treatment’ should have made it clear to everyone that therapists are also human. I can totally understand feeling like you might need to filter yourself though – it’s hard to be ok with internet scrutiny of everything you might have ever done online.
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And you know, ‘in treatment’ is one of my favourite shows and I loved that he was so human and imperfect and yet bam! I got trapped in my own head by the stereotype. ☺️
I forgot to add that yes, the scrutiny is what I fear most, the internet can be so unforgiving…..forever!
I’m always having internal battles with the ethics of what I write, and I think life changes will make us question blogging every so often.
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They do, don’t they? When I first started out, I never thought I’d be re-evaluating this at some stage.
I really like the concept behind this post, the idea that we use a mask to escape from our realities and it is so true. Like you I fear the spotlight and would rather someone else take center stage. I feel uncomfortable in certain situations and use a persona to make myself more confident. We all do it, it is just a question of how we cope with the obstacles that we face.
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Yes, in some cases we need to put on the masks to survive. I suppose it’s getting the balance of slipping the mask off, and remembering who we are underneath it all, that counts.
I actually think blogs are a great way to get across peoples personalities and I some people forget that therapists are ‘people’ too and do their own thing out of office hours so I say, be yourself on your blog.
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I know I always find it weird when I see my therapist just casually walking down the street like the rest of us humans.
Sometimes you have to work things through and going back to the start often helps. Sounds like you have so let the typing begin 🙂
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Oh yes indeed!
You came to a great realization – you really can only be you. Your voice, thoughts & opinions. It can be hard as a blogger. There’s all this talk about finding your blogger voice, your niche etc. But as you said you can only be yourself. x
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It really is very hard, and especially when you don’t actually feel like you have a niche, and you’ll be judged by the very voice Trying to define
OMG you do not know how much I needed to read this today! I totally understand you, I get you. I relate and I feel the same. I am hoping to start up my own business as a holistic reiki practitioner, but I have a ‘personal’ blog, an already established ‘online presence’ etc.
So like you had all these thoughts. But what made my mind settle about it all was that with everything I do online, I would ask myself: ‘did I do it to the best of my ability?’ ‘was i true to myself and who I am’ If i answered yes which I did … well then I am absolutely fine, and I truly believe any therapist will attract to them the right clients for them. So I will keep believing this and stop doubting. So thank you so much for being ‘human’ and writing this because we all need to stop hiding away from our real feelings and our true selves and just be… ourselves. Thank you x
And thank you for such a lovely comment, you’re right, I’ll those clients who are drawn to me will be drawn to me regardless, as long as I am true to myself. And all the best in setting up the reiki practice. Thanks so, so much, you’ve made me feel a lot better.
Congratulations on realising your lifelong dream :). It sounds like you have worked out and dealt with your writing block. I have read a number of posts on the same topic but not come across this issue before. At the end of the day we can only be ourselves, after all as you said we are only human xx
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I really hope I have gotten over it as I really missed writing. Thank you for the comment.
Firstly, well done on getting your mojo back! We all go through this, questioning what we write about, no matter what situation we are in. Some really interesting points in this post. For me the more life experience a therapist has, the better therapist they can be. We all learn from experience, right? X
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Yes, we do all learn from experience and it’s so invaluable. I can only hope I’m getting better with age. And I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s gone through it.