I have written previously on the experience of feeling helpless in the middle of an expedition – putting a lot of work and effort into something but without anything seemingly happening. This has shown up in many places but most visibly in my own analysis, the therapeutic encounter. I have raged over the last few months over a number of matters, where I have given everything I thought I had to give and all that I was left with was complete and total frustration. I’m going nowhere, nothing is happening, I’m feeling very stupid. Feelings of paranoia, a continual feeling that something is going on that I am not aware of that is stopping me getting my goal. And nothing seemingly happening. What is to be done?
What happened next is quite interesting. I was in touch with a friend of mine from college whom I haven’t seen for quite a while. We finally got to meet last Friday and I benefited immensely from his wisdom and insight. He, too, is faced with quite a number of challenges and setbacks in life but I was very taken with his attitude – a dignified response in the face of things that he couldn’t change. I hung on his words, absorbed by his position and his manner. Having listened to the biggest challenge that I faced, he had some words of advice to offer drawn from the pain of his own life experience which was of relevance to my own situation. I thought about this the following day and adopted a new stance on my own difficulties. And lo, and behold, the problem I faced dissolved the following day as I approached the mountain from another perspective.
What I have learned is that it is possible to face seemingly intractable problems with dignity. In our unknowing, given a choice of an angry or dignified response, it is possible to take a deep breath and to respond from the biggest part of ourselves. Whilst it may not always bring us the result we desire, we might just be left with a feeling of having grown via a dignified acceptance of the thing that cannot be changed.
For me, I also know that I am working clinically in a lot of different settings with people that are facing the unknowing – and, hopefully, my own idea about the dignified response may be of some use as they engage on this most difficult work.