‘Tis the season, and I’m thinking about gifts. Not just about presents wrapped with bows and ribbons, but about things given, and a recent conversation.
A friend and colleague told me that, in the world of therapy, you never take anything away without giving first. I’ll mess up his clinical wording, so I’ll give you my own writerly example of what he said:
Say you have a client with an imaginary friend, a major imaginary friend who holds a lot of power and sway over your client’s world. Now, you can’t just blurt out that imaginary friends don’t exist. That would be devastating, and would cause more harm than good.
At this point, I thought about key moments in my own life where the carpet seemed yanked out from under me. Many, many key moments flashed before my eyes and I was heartily amused to think that my own personal cheerleaders in life are brilliant for blurting things out before I’m ready. I think they delight in my hard landings.
The thing of it all has been though: I got good at landing properly–similar to the way they teach you to fall in martial arts classes. And I got good at licking my wounds and good at bouncing back up. It’s become a way of life for me, and not a bad one. I’ve been taught great lessons, and I’ve even managed to teach myself some doozies as well. Resilience, self-encouragement, finding the ray of sunlight in an otherwise dark mess, these are things I know from repeated trial and error.
Now at this point, my writer brain was awakened and starting to line up the words to describe this conversation, and that’s when this happened:
“Never take before you give,” my friend declared. “If you do, you leave a void.”
The writer brain did a flip, but this wasn’t the end of the story. My friend quickly mentioned different techniques for helping the client, and concluded that, rather than working to remove what was imaginary, a person should instead work on building the client’s ability to see all the reality in his or her life, all the flesh-and-blood family, teachers, mentors, coaches, and friends that populate the life of this particular client. He said you fill the client up before you ever suggest letting go of the imaginary friend.
“You give before you take,” he said, and then, “Never in the reverse order.”
These moments in life happen for a reason. Here I sit, in the midst of the holiday giving season, turning this over in my mind. Imagine it: Of all things given this season, our presence fills each other’s lives the best.
Hold on to each other, friends. I wish you all wonder-filled holidays, and an adventurous New Year!