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I want to write about what something I encounter everyday at work. At odds are my desire to help others and the danger of trying to do so. I suspect many Spo-fans are nerdy types, but not all of them, so let me start this entry with an explanation.*

In ‘Star Trek’ there is something called ‘The Prime Directive’. It is a law about not interfering with others. It resembles a parent knowing their child is struggling and you want to rush in and fix things, but you know you ought to let the child ‘do it on its own’. The Prime Directive applies particularly to civilizations below certain thresholds of technological, scientific, and cultural development; it prevents Starships from using their superior technology to impose their own values or ideals onto them. Captain Picard explains this nicely to Dr. Crusher, who wants to help a suffering people but he won’t allow it:

When I entered Medicine, like most young doctors I was excited but naïf about people wanting to be better. In Jungian psychology (which is my way of shrinking heads) there is the presumption people want – nay – even should work on the Individuation process, an incorporation of the conscious and the unconscious (both types) towards self-actualization. I thought everyone was capable of doing so and all wanting to do this. After all, I do.

It turns out very few people really want to grow this way. Most folks are content to ‘just be”. If they have enough money and some things they feel happy. They are not interested in becoming higher-conscious beings or striving towards self awareness. Many don’t know this is even possible.

It is also true for many patients about their health. They say they want to be better, but their actions (or inactions) show this isn’t really so. Then there are the types who state they ‘can’t get better”, yet this not technically true.

This gets back to The Prime Directive. As Captain Picard says in the YouTube clip, when I try to help unwilling people, when I show them the way up and out, this can cause hurt, even disaster. I cannot drag folks out of their psychological cages even when I see the door is open or the cell is locked from within. This does more harm than good. Through experience I now quickly pick up if the patient in front of me is not willing or wanting to be better. I don’t poke about trying to shake up dysfunctional but stable – even coveted – dynamics.

I still find this sad. Have your ever been with another person, in a relationship perhaps, and you say to him/her ” I want to grow. I want to go on a Journey, and I want you to go along with me, us together” – only to be told in someway, no thank you. Alas, it is almost near impossible to respond with” OK, I will stay here with you not go on.” Once the sleeper wakes, that person cannot go back to sleep. They are obliged to go on, leaving the other behind.

A less psychological name for this sort of psychotherapy is called ‘maintenance’ therapy. I try to keep these types cases stable/not worse, but I don’t try to improve them. Like a waiter, I have to remember they are the customer and what the want to order or willing to pay is up to them, not myself. ‘I recommend the fish of the day, it’s excellent!” “Nah, just give me a hot dog, with ketchup”

Once in awhile someone comes in to the office who really wants to get better, not just improve their symptoms, but really grow. Only then can I reach out to help them out of their cage and get them on their Journey. These sorts give me a great satisfaction of true healing.

*This is sometimes referred to a “Spo-plaining”.

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June 2021

Spo-Reflections 2006-2018