Sometimes I feel like a fraud. Hurting people darken the doors of my office and want me to give them relief. In one way or another, every patient tells me the same thing – that I need to fix them or someone else. I must provide the magic answer that will give him or her the sought after ticket to endless happiness. Whether it be sweet talk, homework, doing a specific thing, making a certain decision or my offering gratifying compliments … hell, just IV it. But give me whatever it is you got that will keep this feeling coming.
And I always disappoint. I really should put a sign on my office door. One that says “Beware all who enter here. It is not what you think. You might get more than you bargained for. You might learn things, see things and feel things you did not know existed.”
What is it about happiness that it has become the only sought after feeling, the emotional hog of the lot? Maybe it is the pleasure principle. As humans, we lean toward pleasure and away from pain. Or maybe it is our never-tiring fairy tales. After all, “they” did live happily ever after. Or maybe it is sheer capitalism. Happiness sells better. If you can convince me that buying a certain product or an experience can give me a permanent state of bliss, how fast can I sign up for that? Or maybe they never had someone as prickly in their lives as I am – that no one actually told them that we are meant to have all our feelings. And we are meant to enjoy every last one of them – joy, pain, anger, fear, shame, guilt and love.
I am sorry to be the one that has to raise the curtain. To be the one that admits, when it comes down to it, I am not the magical wizard everyone thinks I am or fantasizes I can be. I am really just the Welcome Wagon. The hostess. Wheel of Fortune’s Vanna White. The butler at the grand mansion. All I possess is the privilege of introducing the endless possibility of emotional and relational expanse to fellow travelers, other human beings. I get to roll out the red carpet, pull up a chair and settle in for the long-haul. Let the work begin.
As an emotional healer, my first job is one of seduction. I have to convince the well-defended stranger sitting across from me that there is hope. That he or she can have more, deserves more, in life, love and work. That life as he or she has known it does not have to continue and I am a trusted source to show him or her a different way. As interest gets piqued and I become a reliable companion, surrender beckons. Patients might accept with less resistance the process of what needs to happen for change to not only occur but to stick. At this juncture on the road, there is an opening where the psyche softens. The patient begins to think maybe there is something here and I want it. Emotions enliven and emerge. Internal ice begins to melt. And the capacity of emotional range not only widens but is tolerated, trusted and even enjoyed. And that is when transformation sprouts. The person that first walked into my office is no longer present. With hard work, patience and persistence, he or she as they once were has seemingly mysteriously vanished. Whoever it was that came in for happiness is leaving with much more than he or she ever imagined, more than he or she ever knew they could have. He or she has learned that feelings are just feelings. And like colors on a palette, we need all of them to paint the mural of our lives.
So, settle in, my friends. Strap on your seatbelt. Life is a helluva ride. And I want you to enjoy every moment, every feeling it occasions, even if it is not a happy one.