Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation. Brian Tracy
So Much Pain, So Little Time
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a therapist? I’m going to tell it to you straight. Helping people can be wonderful, but it can also be frustrating sometimes. The efforts of a therapist are sometimes accepted and even embraced, but they’re also resisted and even rejected.
With the privilege of witnessing incredible breakthroughs comes the probability of wading through intense suffering. As much as I love my work, there are moments when it seems that there’s little to be thankful for.
I spent this Thanksgiving in the company of people who are suffering right now. As I considered the things I’m thankful for this year, their experiences altered my perspective.
5 Things I’m Thankful For
1. Loving Relationships – I’m reminded every day of how thankful I am to have grown up in a home where I was treated with dignity and respect, a place where I was protected from the potentially soul-damaging influence of a rough neighborhood and where I was taught to provide a similar safe haven for the next generation. Was my family perfect in every way? Of course not, but beneath our imperfections there was an undeniable love for each other that guided us through difficult times.
Now, when I open my front door, I walk into a world of love and laughter, a place where a beautiful woman and a few amazing kids share their lives with me. Do we have our disagreements? Sure we do, but our struggles are rare in frequency, short in duration, low in intensity and invariably end with forgiveness and growth. As a therapist, I’m reminded every day that many struggle for a rare moment of joy in their relationships that I experience with those I love every day.
2. Lessons Learned – I’m thankful for the guy I used to be (he really was a nice kid) who actually paid attention a few times when caring mentors shared their wisdom. I’m thankful for the thoughtful decisions made by the boy I was back then that continue to bless the man I am right now and for the lessons I learned from mistakes made long ago that keep me from going through it all again. I’m reminded every day that there are many who learn slowly and suffer far too long.
3. Mental Clarity – I’m thankful for a clear mind which allows me to appreciate the beauty all around me, including an awareness of the the inherent goodness of my fellow human beings, even when they’re not at their best. I give thanks for every day of freedom from the crushing effects of addiction and mental illness.
When I look in the mirror, it’s always comforting to find that the lights are still on in the eyes of the guy looking back at me. Do I make mental mistakes sometimes? Absolutely, but I admit them quickly and adjust accordingly. I’m reminded every day that many go through life feeling lost and confused, refusing to change their minds or their actions.
4. Life Outside Myself – I’m thankful for the chance I have every day to lift people who have fallen down and can’t get up on their own, to bring them a little more joy and peace in their time of crisis. I also love to associate with colleagues who share a commitment to serving those who struggle. Am I capable of being annoying and even hurtful? Sure I am, but I spend most of my time practicing being nice. Maybe someday I’ll be really good at it.
As it turns out, helping others helps me too. Among other things, it keeps me from getting sucked into the vortex of my own self-pity, and it reminds me of my own need for self-improvement. The fact that I’m actually paid to serve others is a tasty little layer of frosting on an already delicious cake. I’m reminded every day that many are so attached to their own suffering that they become disconnected from others.
5. Divine Assistance – Most of all, I’m thankful for a loving God who has provided me with everything good in my life, including the desire to do something meaningful with that life. As wonderful as I may seem to some (wait for the humility, it’s coming), without the help of something or someone much bigger and better than me, I believe that I would be incapable of making a lasting difference for good in this world (no offense to me, none taken).
In those pivotal moments when something profound needs to be said or done, I’m often at a loss for words or actions. That’s when divine inspiration fills in the blanks and lives are changed, especially my own. I’m reminded every day that many face their challenges alone, without any awareness of the true Source of their strength.
Do you know what gets a therapist through the tough times? It’s knowing that these gifts are available to everyone. I’ve seen too many tragedies turn into triumphs to lose hope in people. Burned bridges can be rebuilt. Lines of communication can be reopened, and the light can shine again in a cloudy mind. If I thought that such miracles were impossible, I would choose a different line of work.
How have the challenges of others helped you become more thankful?