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Philosophy and Psychology have in common the notion of Self-growth as the goal of living. “Man, know thyself” was written over the door at the Oracle at Delphi for folks to see as they came to learn about their fate. Psychotherapy is mostly about looking at what is getting in the way of the patient’s progress in life.  Both have the assumption – perhaps naïf- people actually want to grow.  In my job I’ve learned not everyone wants to grow. In fact this may be the majority; nowadays people want certainty which is detrimental to growth and learning.  Many people are trying merely to survive. Their lives aren’t so much ‘how do I become a better person” but “how the hell to I get through this day?” and repeat again tomorrow.*

I see a specific sort of clientele, so my data is skewed towards the folks not looking for insight or Self-growth but for medication to appease their anxiety or lift their melancholy so they have more strength and stamina to get through the direful situations they are living in/contending with. I try to insert some education about escaping that awful job/relationship/situation; I also try to get them to see growth and survival as not a choice or one or the other. Often this goes over like a lead balloon. I’ve learned lots of my patients aren’t going to grow and to drag them kicking and screaming down The Journey is foolish. They get their meds, they vent/complain about their lot, and back again in three months.

Once in a while (alas not frequent) someone comes in who doesn’t have ‘clinical depression’ but has ‘spiritual depression”.  In psychoanalysis, depression is not a medical condition to suppress like hypertension but a warning sign one’s life is not right. It’s like an engine light coming on in you car.  When this happens one doesn’t ask the mechanic to turn it off, but to lift the bonnet and see what’s wrong inside with the engine. Dynamic depression feels lousy but thems who experience it have been given a prod to do some something about it viz. mend their lives and find what out needs to be done.  My job is to point this out and try to get them going on their path, despite the fears, the uncertainty, and for some the perceived lateness. 

Few recognize this sort of depression and what it is calling them to do, and fewer still are willing to go on the difficult unforeseen Journey.  Psyche has a curios way to ‘encourage one” to do so when you don’t go willingly by creating road blocks in the form of nervous breakdowns or unconscious acting out to lose your status quo. “Finally!” is seems to say when you’ve lost the jobs/spouse/health “It took a lot but perhaps now we can start the real work!”  

Anyone who has ever read a fairy tale or seen an adventure movie knows The Hero does not go alone on their Journey but goes with sidekicks and meets people to help them. My job often serves the role of Friend or Sidekick.  I am honored to be part of anyone’s Journey.  I hope to give assistance even when I cannot show them the Way. 


*I would like to figure out in a Venn diagram two circles, one titled “Those who are just trying to survive” and another titled: “Those not interested in growing” to see if there is much overlap. I used to think thems not interested led to thems just trying to survive, but I know now this is not cause and effect per se.

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March 2021

Spo-Reflections 2006-2018