a bit on why
Therapy is a choice. This is part one of a five part series about why I do the work I do
A couple of recent conversations with colleagues have been really impactful. Some aspects of what Seth Godin calls ‘practical empathy’ had escaped me.
I had forgotten that the people I work with and the people I serve don’t know what I know or think what I think. I had taken my expertise for granted much to the detriment of both myself and my clients.
In this, and the next four articles, I'll explore my personal practical knowledge and why it enables me to help people build more resilient businesses, relationships, and lives by connecting better with themselves and the world around them. These are all written and will be released weekly. My hope is that from reading these, you might see yourself in some of my stories. Perhaps you’ll find the courage and humility to get help and become more resilient in all aspects of your life.
Resilience comes from recognizing whey you need help
Typically with new clients, people ask me, Why did you get into this personal growth business anyway? My response is frequently flippant. I tell them I’m like Victor Kiam and the Remington Microscreen - I liked it so much, I bought the company.
The truth is considerably darker and more serious. In reality? I’m certain that without the kind of healing that therapeutic relationships have given me, I’d probably be single, without children, a career and, likely dead by now. That was my arc. Luckily, my skill was recognizing that I needed help. This ability saved my life. In turn, I’ve been able to repay the favor.
But more on that later.
Let’s roll things back a bit.
Way back in time, I wasn’t a therapist. At this point, I didn’t even have a therapist yet. I was in my mid-twenties. Having just finished training at a pretty exclusive theatre school, I was living in Toronto. I was a swirling mess. I worked in restaurants, drank heaps, and drove my bike recklessly in traffic. I felt entitled, better than everything, and that the world owed me something.
This? This was a mask for just how insecure and inadequate I was. I wasn’t aware of this mask. The false bravado and arrogance I projected was a way for me to hide from the failure and rejection that I imagined awaited me with any endeavour. I took easy work at crappy restaurants while doing more preparation and actor training.
The flipside of my arrogance was insecurity. No matter how much I trained, there was no way I would ever be good enough to put myself out there in "the business". When I had audition opportunities, I would be so worked up with anxiety, I would drink my face off the night before. Sick with both booze and fear, I would invariably blow things up.
I remember one morning, I woke up on a bench in front of the Cathedral Church of St. James in Toronto. There was a puddle of vomit at my feet. My vomit. A shadow crossed my bleary eyes. There was a clergyman in front of me.
You’re treading a fraught path young man…
I bolted before I could hear any more. I ran into traffic on Adelaide Street. Someone nearly hit me. I pulled out my keychain. It was a swiss army knife. I opened it up and began yelling at traffic.
Come and get me motherfuckers!
Fast forward a few months and I was narrowly escaping one fight after another. Eventually my luck ran out and I got my ass kicked. At the doctor's, I was given tylenol 3’s for the pain and a note to get some mental health help. Two weeks after that I went to my first group therapy session.
Although I’m entitled to see the counseling notes made about me, I’ve never made the request. Looking back, I’m certain that some diagnostic terms were used to describe me. I could guess what they might have been. I was spiraling, searching for answers. A diagnosis would have likely confirmed that I was ‘crazy’ and wouldn’t have been all that helpful.
What was helpful? At group I met Tony Greco. I’ve known Tony longer than I’ve known my wife. Before meeting Tony, I met a few different therapists. They seemed to be detached. They seemed to need to ‘fix’ me. Tony had the ability to accept me with my rage and aggression. Tony had the compassion to wait for the pain to emerge from beneath the rock of my hostility.
Over time, I learned that angry men with a blue collar background from the suburbs had few options for therapy. My father as a firefighter would tell stories of being brought in to see the psychologists after a particularly ugly call. They would lie to the therapists. They didn’t trust them. Between their ties and diplomas, my dad and many of his buddies felt judged by the psychologists. I had the same experience.
I became a therapist so that people who feel judged by therapists or ashamed that they need support can feel safe to open up. I have learned that therapy is a technology not unlike ministry for the secular world. And like that clergyman who found me sleeping on bench in front of the cathedral, I want to help the people. I want to help people he can’t reach. I’m here for people feel judged and afraid to enter into a relationship with a therapist. I’ve never been ‘normal’. I’ve never been perfect. And, I’ve learned to be ok with who I am.
You can too.