How High Are You, Therapist?

If your therapist is the Buddha, you’ll become enlightened in the process.                           ~ Ram Dass

This started out as a sequel to another article with a similar name, but I want to address therapists here instead of non-therapists (though I welcome anyone to listen in). I’m not widely known for giving advice (how would I know?) or setting requirements (did I mention: how would I know?). Yet, it feels right to explore the concept of therapists having some responsibility for getting as “high” as possible (in the sense of level of consciousness, emotional maturity, etc.) in the service of their clients. I explore that here.

Unintended lack of humility warning! In the past, I have struggled to find a therapist for myself who was as “high” as I like to think I am. I felt like I could do as well or better on my own. Maybe that’s something I need to work on, he said humbly. In any case, it made me think about what responsibility I might have to my clients to stay at least a little bit ahead of them. If I had no experience with, say, having a life-threatening illness, who was I to counsel others on getting through this? And so on.

I suppose that I could rely on book-learning or consulting with experienced colleagues or taking a weekend seminar. Yet, it seems there’s nothing quite like having been there yourself. I know that I provide therapy to many people whose experience of life I can only guess at, based on their description. At the same time, the more life experiences I’ve had, the better I am able to have a framework for understanding other people’s viewpoint.

So, my advice to therapists includes making every attempt to: gain life experiences, learn about ones you cannot experience directly, and get as “high” as you can. That way, you can stay at least one step ahead of your clients and take them as “high” as they want to go.

OK, now let’s imagine that you’ve worked on yourself successfully (whatever that means) and have gotten pretty “high.” Let’s say that you’ve gotten so “high” that you’ve found yourself engaging in what some call “spiritual awakening” or “spiritual emergence” (the lite version of “spiritual emergency”). It’s not important for you to know much about this right now (maybe in a future article?). Let’s just say, for our purposes, you feel fairly confident that, should they want this, you can take most people to as “high” a level of consciousness as they want, if they want.

I know I’m redundant in my use of the word “want” above. It’s important, however, that your clients only go as far as they want, not as far as you might wish for them or feel able to take them. Most clients (as I did for several decades) focus on getting just “high” enough to find relief from their current suffering. They may not want to “become enlightened in the process.” They may just want the suffering to end. When I get a bad headache, I take something for it. Yes, maybe I’m missing some grand opportunity to explore why I got the headache so I can prevent future headaches, or something like that. In the moment, though, I just want to stop hurting. I totally accept and respect myself for that. Likewise, you can consider it your job to serve your clients in the way they want. The customer is always right (but may need to return later when the next suffering begins).

So, if you’re sitting at whatever level (let’s assume for the sake of this article it’s “higher” than your client), I invite you to keep in mind the need to begin at their level (which presumably you’ve visited at one time or other in your own fashion). Further, I invite you to respect their desire to reach a level that may still be “lower” than yours. It’s their journey, you’re just their guide. If they don’t want to go bungee-jumping, no problem. If they want to take the bus tour and not get out of the bus, no problem. All you can do is make it safe and possibly even attractive to jump or leave the bus. (Besides, how would you know what they need to do in this lifetime?)

 

Copyright 2015 Daniel J. Metevier