Believe it or not, I have a psychology degree. My initial intent was to go into counseling but I figured out pretty quickly that I have no emotional off switch. Empathy is an important part of being a therapist, but you need the ability to put it down sometimes. Apparently I'm not the only person who hasn't quite mastered that skill.
One Reddit user asked:
Therapists of reddit, how do you keep your emotions in check while attempting to counsel the most vile of your clients? Surely you have some sessions that just rock your core, or have you really "heard it all"?
Here are some of the more insightful answers...
Not My Time
Regardless of what the person in front of me has experienced, they survived and are seeking help in the here and now. I've found that, as a new therapist, nothing is about me when i'm interacting with a client. It's not my time, it's theirs, so even if I feel a strong reaction in the moment, I give myself permission to set it aside until i am able to take my own time to process. I've definitely cried in the bathroom after rough sessions though.
When I was a caseworker, I used to find it easier to observe professional boundaries and ensure I provided good counselling, etc., with clients I didn't like, compared to clients I did like.
In the case of the former, I always had the mindset of "OK, I don't like this person, so I need to be careful to ensure I conduct myself professionally at all times".
With people I liked, there was always a greater risk of slipping into interpersonal dynamics more akin to friendship, which can be harder to detect (as a degree of friendliness is generally required to provide good counselling and therapeutic support. Characteristics of appropriate conduct, in that respect, can be a much fuzzier line than the professional requirement to not rip into someone for being reprehensible twat).
Like A Wind Tunnel
Honestly, one of the ways I feel most differently from most people is in my level of empathy. I think I'm unusual in this regard, even compared to most other psychologists. I tend to think that if someone really wants to change, they deserve help in making that change. One of the things I find most frustrating about reddit is how quickly people will dismiss other humans as trash. Even those who do the most vile things are human, and they often (although admittedly not all) hate themselves as much, if not more, than others do for doing those things. It's a bit cliche, but people aren't vile, actions are.
Having said that, there are clients who manage to push my buttons, but in general they've not been therapy clients. People in therapy usually want change, and if they don't (for example, they're there because they're forced to be there), I won't continue therapy with them. It's a waste of time. Other clients who do bother me (that I'm evaluating), I try to be aware of my reaction and look at it objectively, in terms of having a job to do, to understand what it is about their behavior that's pushing my buttons because in almost all cases its the same thing that's pushing others' buttons as well. I think of myself as a social psychological testing equipment in that case, sort of like a wind tunnel or something.
Covered In Crap
I'm not a therapist yet, but it's what I want to do and I'm studying to become one. One of the things were taught is unconditional positive regard, and one of the "tricks" we were taught to help us with it is to think of every person being inherently a good person, with it being their experiences that shape who they have become. A good example is the fact that abusers have often been abused themselves.
I don't normally believe in souls, but I find it helps to conceptualize everyone as having a pure soul that gets covered in crap due to what happens in their life. But most of that crap isn't their fault, so you can try to look past it to the good soul underneath. Obviously this doesn't mean you excuse or condone the horrible things people do, it just lets you understand it, at least a little, which does a lot to look past the bad.
In all honesty I think this is probably the best thing I've learned in my entire degree, and I've tried to apply it to anyone in my life who annoys or irritates me. I have found that it increases my tolerance and patience for the little things when I look beyond the thing and think about why they might be doing it.
I sometimes think I must be close to having heard it all but after 20 years, yes, I still get surprises and hear new things from clients.
I can honestly say that there have been very, very few 'vile' clients. I love my work and have a lot of respect for people who are brave enough to come to therapy - its hard work to go through therapy. Its OK as a therapist to have emotional responses to our clients, in fact if you're not then I'd be a bit worried about the therapist. But its being able to recognise what emotions are about my 'stuff' and what emotions are about the clients 'stuff' and dealing with it appropriately. my 'stuff' get set aside for my own therapy & supervision sessions. you learn how and when to identify your own emotions and work with them or set them aside in your training.
Sometimes it is very therapeutic for the client to see my emotional response. Getting sad about a clients abuse can help them to see that what happened to them was not OK when working with abuse clients. Many clients don't have a good connection to their emotions so they learn by seeing my reactions.
I've only had a few clients that might be considered 'vile' - I noticed my emotional response and then set it aside for later and get back to the clients responses. in these cases showing emotions would have been dangerous as they were both sex offenders. Afterwards, yes I did feel 'rocked to the core' and talked about it in supervision, did lots of self care.
There are some stories I've heard that give me nightmares. having a good supervisor/therapist is critical in doing lots of trauma/abuse work as is having done your own therapy, though this is less common these days.
Don't Get Involved
I was a therapist in a forensic facility. I treated serial killers, stalkers, arsonists, etc.
Some of my colleagues had to do a lot of self-care stuff, but honestly I never brought it home with me. Maybe I have a dark streak myself or maybe it's just that at the end of the day it's a job. You get used to the clients. I actually really enjoyed it.
People are people. I remember sitting in a transport bus with a mass shooter in the back in shackles just shooting the shit and cracking jokes. People aren't 100% the worst thing they ever did 100% of the time.
Also, in therapist school (usually a master's or PhD in social work, psychology, or counseling) they spend years teaching you how to treat people without getting personally involved. It's like a muscle you train. You can care about someone and have empathy for them without getting emotionally tangled up in their experience, it just takes practice and direction.
I'm trying to remember if I ever heard anything that "rocked me to my core". I heard stuff that was absolutely mind-bendingly crazy, but...idk...I never heard anything that kept me up at night.
Oooof there are people you come across that make your stomach turn (cue to a pretty serious personality disorder.) One tool I use to muster up empathy and positive regard is imagining what life would be like to be them. Picturing the world through their eyes and how people respond to them daily. Even though their response is different then my imagination it usually is sad, lonely and gives me motivation to help them. That's a simpler one. There are also tools we are trained to use to figure out what it is about someone that is bothersome and how to respond to them in a way that promotes growth. The thought here is that if it's bothersome to a therapist- it's bothersome and negatively impacted interpersonal relationships outside of the therapy session. Our job is to help a client learn and change these things to improve relationships (assuming they want that.)
Sense Of Community
I am mostly desensitized to it all. It doesn't mean I don't have emotions or don't care but my focus is to always validate and explore solutions rather than wallow in the trauma i am hearing. When you are in the mind set of helping the person in front of you, the context of what they are actually saying makes it manageable because you feel useful.
But of course, there are days where I hear a story and hits my heart and I can't shake it for days. During those times I have really practice self care. It's helpful to talk to others in the profession too. There's a sense of community there for sure.
Not a therapist, but I had a friend who was an LCSW (licensed social worker, aka a shrink ) for 30 years.
She would not accept narcissists for treatment.
She said they were incurable, as a group tended to like to play mind games with the therapist, and she had personal issues with narcissist relatives in her childhood.
I imagine other therapists simply do the same, they just don't accept clients who make them extremely uncomfortable.
Value Of Life
I honestly feel like I've heard it all. I'll acknowledge that my experience is atypical, as I work night shift in a level 1 trauma center ER downtown in a major US city. I do crisis counseling, psychiatric assessments, and brief clinical interventions to people experiencing their first psychiatric crisis. Our ER gets all kinds - murderers, child abusers, people with major personality disorders, etc. At the end of the day they are just as human as I am, and while their life experience is different from mine, they deserve the same empathy and respect that I deserve. Part of the reason why I became a counselor is that I have a deep respect for the dignity and value of life. Even if that life is calling me "f*cking ugly" or sh!tting into their own hand, rolling it into a ball, and using it like a bowling ball in our hallways...
Being an emergency responder is a high-stress job.
It's a career with long, laborious hours.
There is always a hint of danger. And death is always around the corner.
So we as a society could try to help these people out and not put ourselves in unnecessary danger.
Redditor Diligent-Log6805wanted the rescue workers out there to tell us about the times they rescued people. They asked:
"Emergency responders of reddit, what are some dumb things that have lead to an emergency situation?"
These workers and the world already has enough trouble without my stupid.
"So... was she impressed?"Idiot Reaction GIFGiphy
"Kid driving his new truck down a residential street, wet from a recent rain, lost control and hit a parked car, overcorrected and rolled it once back onto its wheels up onto a lawn. He told the fire chief he had gunned it to impress his girlfriend and the chief just looked at him and asked 'So... was she impressed?'"
"I had a client once who was basically Ricky from Trailer Park Boys, loud, obnoxious, hilarious and every second word was some Maritime slang or a derivative of 'f**k.' He has been on daily eye drops for decades for dry eyes, sure ok cool. I hear screaming down the hall and run in and he's wedged against the wall and the bed just screaming 'I f**ked up boys, I dunno what the f**k is f**king happening but It's f**ked."
"Turns out he mistakenly put Jublia which is an antifungal ointment for toenails in his eye thinking it was his eye drops. The strangest part was the bottle has this miniature sponge at the end so you soak the sponge then paint it on like a gel...he painted this antifungal ointment onto his eye which immediately went red and angry then proceeded to do the other one."
"So he's at the eyewash station and I'm talking to poison control and they are pretty stunned because they have zero data on what happens to a human eyeball when it's painted in antifungal. I can hear the staff at the other end kind of snickering under her breath and she asks can you compare and contrast the eyes? Well... he put it in both eyes. The line goes silent because I can tell she is howling. Guy was totally fine but it was a standout for sure."
Will they show?
"Responded to a call of two minors being kidnapped and their parents being beaten in front of them and then taken someplace else. One was around three years and the other one was six. They were held captive in an apartment out of hundreds of residential apartments which not easy to locate, upon reaching there we found out that the boy six was just playin' with us to see if we would actually respond. Their parents were so embarrassed by all of that and vowed to not give them mobile until they are adults."
"When I was an EMT in NYC years ago we had a call for a man 'unresponsive.' We entered an upscale apartment that was a hoard: floor to ceiling newspapers and magazines, just a mess. The woman who called said her brother was in his bedroom sick."
"We entered his room and it was pretty obvious that he had already passed away. She had placed a bowl under his mouth because he had hemorrhaged which had coagulated the day before it was crazy. We asked her why she hadn’t called sooner and she said thought he’d get better?!"
"The joke around the house was 'if you have to put a bowl under a relative who is bleeding from the mouth, call 911. Don’t wait.' Never thought we’d have to advise anyone to do that. But there ya go. Also, it was Thanksgiving. Didn’t eat any cranberry sauce that year."
God Only KnowsMarried At First Sight Lol GIF by LifetimeGiphy
"Had a guy call because he had the cure to Covid and needed a ride to the local education hospital so he could share it. Dude was so high on meth He ended up having 4 or 5 binders worth of scientific looking notes. God only knows what was actually in them."
Wow, people really need to get a grip. Of their minds.
"Sparky"on fire GIFGiphy
"One of my old bosses once built a new shed in his back yard, to replace his old, worn-out one. He moved everything from the old one to the new one, then decided that the best way to remove the old one was by burning it down. He ended up with no sheds and the nickname 'Sparky.'"
Dead in the living room...
"Paramedic here. We responded to this 54 year old having chest pain. Man was having a heart attack. Dude didn't want to go to the hospital because it too early in the day. That's it. We tried to convince him to go. Got the ER doc to talk to him and he wouldn't budge. He signed a Refusal. Later that same night, his family found him. Dead in the living room. We got to him and started CPR, meds, everything. Dude didn't make it. When we advise you to go to the hospital, go."
"Got called to a shooting. A guy says he received a text message from an anonymous number saying his brother has been shot. He checks all the hospitals with no luck. He goes to his brother's apartment but gets no response at his door but sees his car and can hear the TV on. We get there, attempt to get an answer at the door."
"Eventually we kick the door in to make sure he wasn't dying in his apartment. We boot the door, announce police, and find him asleep in his bed. The guy tells us that he got a new phone number and decided to mess with his brother by texting him he had been shot. He then fell asleep and forgot about the text and was woken up by us. So many wasted resources on his idiotic prank."
"Got called to a priority job. The caller was kayaking in a lake and said that there was an unresponsive male in the water. So off we went, lights and sirens. We requested paramedics and fire to attend as well for the rescue operation. There were about 6 emergency vehicles attending including a rescue boat. We got there within minutes and met the caller who showed us where the guy was."
"He was just swimming, minding his own business. The caller said he was unresponsive, but really he was just ignoring her. Had a chat with the guy, he seemed alright, said he swims here every day and likes the quiet. No issues. Would have been nice if the caller told the operator that he was still conscious and swimming rather than 'unresponsive.'"
Chew SlowlySnl GIF by Saturday Night LiveGiphy
"Well, I was taking a lady home from dialysis and she decided to eat a snickers in the back of the ambulance, and she started choking. Had to do the heimlich, and tell her to finish her food at home."
If it's not a true emergency dial 311. Please.
I hated science classes.
As soon as I could I ran.
But it follows me.
Because science can be downright disturbing.
That's why I blocked out so many of the details.
Redditor Flimsy_Finger4291wanted to compare notes on all the frightening facts that are a definitive. They asked:
"What's the scariest thing that science has proven real?"
As if knowledge isn't scary enough, let's her more...
Hello Terrypaint surgery GIF by gifnewsGiphy
"Some tumors have teeth, hair and even eyes."
"My sister had one minus the eyes! It was cantaloupe sized on one of her ovaries before it was found. She named it Terry the Teratoma."
"My best friend and bunk mate from summer camp died from one of those when I was in 7th grade. Happened so quickly, we were a week into camp and he got really sick. They gave us all heavy meningitis shots because they didn’t know what it was and within a few days he was dead. Turned out to be a brain eating amoeba."
"Edit: strangely enough on the same day he started getting sick one of the lifeguards that was sitting out in a boat waiting for the next group of kids for what we called Trojans Vs. Spartans day had a seizure, fell off the boat and drowned. Only deaths they’d ever had in the 50+ years the camp had been open."
Far Far Away
"The size of our galaxy, how many other galaxies there are and how far away they are. When you can actually see something that incomprehensible.."
"The nearest star to us would take the Voyager 70,000 years to reach. The nearest galaxy to ours would take the Voyager 749,000,000 years. If we some how managed to take on the monstrous task of speed of light travel it would still take 25,000 years to reach the nearest galaxy. And it's even further apart after you read this. Wild stuff!"
"How the brain is literally rewired and chemically altered by childhood neglect and abuse."
"It's genuinely kinda freaky, playing a puzzle game, and noticing how quickly you're getting better at it. The kind of puzzles that were a real blocker in the beginning become baby-easy after like an hour of playing puzzles like it."
"My sister faced horrible abuse at the hands of our father, and she has been working through it with multiple therapists over the last 10 years and she is only now starting to get her life back. I feel like she was robbed at a fair chance at life because of our a**hole father."
AwakeBill Murray Im Here GIF by Groundhog DayGiphy
"Prions, horrific and totally unpredictable."
"Fatal familial insomnia is a prions disease where you can't sleep anymore, you just stay awake until your brain deteriorates and you die."
Now I can never UNKNOW about prions. Perfect.
Days gone by...Aging Matt Damon GIFGiphy
"Ageing. I'm content with death but the idea of my body growing old, frail and eventually falling apart before the end game gives me goosebumps."
"Gamma ray bursts. No warning, no escape, no defense, no survivors."
"If you're talking about supernovas if the star isn't too close the gamma burst would probably only destroy some part of our ozone layer. And gamma radiation is actually the least lethal out of all types of waves."
"Entropy. Time shall consume all things. Inevitable heat death of the universe."
"I personally want the 'Big Crunch' to be true. That instead of fizzling out it all gets sucked back into an infinitely small/dense particle and then another Big Bang happens. It’s my explanation for the multiverse. It’s all one timeline. Just infinitely long."
"More like a theory, the 'orangutan paradox,' when we film a documentary on orangutans, they can’t realize that we are observing them, yet they are the most intelligent species of their category, so aliens might be watching us and we are as oblivious as an orangutan."
Fade 2 SilentListen Scooby Doo GIF by MashedGiphy
"That hearing is the last sense to leave, when dying."
Well that is the antithesis of comfort. Life is so fun.
Ever since Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope opened on May 25, 1977, a devoted fanbase developed.
And that fanbase has opinions.
Lots and lots of opinions.
Redditor Ebo8000 wanted to know:
"What is your most controversial take on Star Wars?"
"LASERS LOCK DOORS. LASERS OPEN DOORS. LASERS KNOW WHAT YOU WANT THE DOOR TO DO."
"But if you get past the door and close it behind you and you don’t want anyone to follow you through it…"
"…you shoot the bloody door panel!"
"Also, f*cking hell, we're in the future (or in the past), whatever, and people have better technology."
"Why put the door control RIGHT NEXT to the door? Put the door control system in a breaker box."
"Build every door so in case of malfunction they all shut closed (after all, they're in space and you don't want to lose air in decompression, do you?)"
"Shoot the breaker box, now the whole floor is closed until someone can figure out what happened."
"Almost look like those doors just exist as dramatic elements..."
"I’d like a film about when the Republic was at its height. 1,000 generations is 25,000 years and we’ve had 9 movies about the last 60."
"Not sure if controversial but they need to take the franchise and yeet it 200 years in the future."
"I'm tired of the Empire era where they need to justify why more than 2 Jedi and 2 Sith exist at one moment alongside knowing everything is pointless until Luke leaves the farm."
Design Fail? No!
"The Death Stars weren't badly designed they were just badly managed."
"Yes, designing them assuming large scale assaults was stupid given the political state of the galaxy but the second Death Star wasn't even finished so that doesn't count, it's all Palpatine's fault. As for the first one that was finished, the Alliance made three runs on the exhaust port."
"The first was called off before they made it to the trench, the second failed and the third was carried out by space Jesus which isn't exactly fair."
"All in all it sounds like a fairly effective defence when you consider the design philosophy."
"The entire universe has a cool factor that outweighs the atrocious storytelling."
"Bro imagine the following movies, but if they were in Star Wars universe."
"Magnificent 7 - A Jedi, Bounty Hunter, Ex-Imperial, Pilot, Wookie, a Droid, and Lawman team up to defend a town against pirates"
"Dredd - Two Jedi climb up an apartment block to confront a new dark side user who has mental control of the entire apartment block"
"Supernatural (T.V. Show) - A Jedi and their apprentice go around and solve and defeat Dark Side Force spots—where the Force consolidates from emotions and creates foul creatures to fight"
"Top Gun - But it's you know, Wedge or something"
"Ford versus Ferrari - But it's podracing or swoop racing"
"Something about the ships in the original series always felt more like real ships than in any of the later movies, despite the objectively better effects of the later films."
"Some of this is probably the use of models (i.e. actual three dimensional objects), but I think there is some critical difference in the design that makes them feel more real (probably because they were designed to be things that would actually work as models)."
"Whatever it is, I LOVED the ships in the original series and never really liked any of the new ones."
"The original trilogy changed the world by showing a universe in space that was dirty and lived in. The special effects from the later movies did not recognize this."
"Boba Fett is an oddly overrated background character, and even after watching The Book of Boba Fett, I don’t really care about him."
"He was never a character. He was a cool helmet."
"He was a cool jetpack too."
Time for the weather...
"Han is actually older than Obi-Wan due to Time Dilation."
"Time dilation in a universe where every planet and moon has the same gravity and atmosphere?"
"And just 1 biome."
"That way they only need one Weather Channel per planet."
"And over to Klaatu for the Tatooine weather report. Klaatu?"
"It's still sunny."
These are the droids we're looking for.
"Star Wars is actually the life story of C-3PO—think about it."
"I disagree. I think its R2-D2's story. He had a much greater presence in Episode 1, 2 and 3, and got the same amount of screen time as C-3PO in 4, 5 and 6."
Fan is short for fanatic.
"Fans ruined the whole franchise."
So, did your controversial Star Wars opinion make the list?
Death is a subject many people shy away from because what they don't know beyond our realm of existence can be intimidating.
Hollywood hasn't helped, as movies and TV have typically portrayed death as something sinister and violent.
How could anyone be convinced death is a peaceful transition, and that what awaits on the other side is actually an unimaginable utopia?
Curious to hear strangers' thoughts about death, Redditor GoodNess2020 invoked a quote by an iconic literary figure and asked:
"Mark Twain once said, 'I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.' Why do you agree/disagree with his statement?"
People clarified what actually terrified them most about death
"I don't fear being dead. I fear dying."
"Yeah, that's usually the issue. It's why that quote doesn't mean much, to a lot of people."
"It's not a fear of eventually dying and not existing anymore. It's the act of dying itself. He didn't constantly die for all of time. He just wasn't alive."
Concept Of Loss
"To have not existed for billions of years is to have spent billions of years never knowing loss. To die is to know loss."
"If you look into a new bank account and see zero dollars, it’s nothing. If you look into a bank account that once had a million dollars and see there’s nothing in there, you’ll know it’s absence."
People provided an analogy to articulate what ceasing to exist must feel like.
It's About Time
"Time is only relevant to you when you are alive. He is right. Have you ever been sedated for surgery? You go under, and then instantly wake up and procedure is done.... or you died so no worries."
Consciousness Is Life
"You won’t be feeling anything in death though is the thing. That infinite/instant sensation was a living feeling, you just weren’t conscious for it - your body experienced it anyways. No body, no experience."
Like Being Under
"That is very true, but for me, that's the closest amalgamation of what it probably feels like."
"No one can tell you what actual death will be like. It's impossible for you to experience nothingness."
"Thinking about death can be paralysing sometimes, and when I remember that the closest thing i can link as an experience I had, being put under, was actually sort of pleasant. I then think maybe death will be like that, and honestly it doesn't seem that bad."
When In Deep Sleep
"Yeah in contrast to sleep where you can actually feel like time has passed when you wake up."
Think Line Between Death And Slumber
"As CGPGrey puts it, your bed might very well be a suicide machine."
"Given our lack of understanding for the fundamental processes of our sentience, it's entirely possible that when you fall asleep, your mind is functionally killed, disassembled, analyzed, sorted, tweaked, and adjusted by your biology, before being reassembled when you wake. Every night."
People opened up about their insecurities around the concept of death.
Fear Of What Comes Next
"I’m just paranoid that something does happen after death and it’s just based on one thing that you didn’t know about."
The Circle Of Death
"There’s nothing to fear in oblivion. Unless, of course, your consciousness survives death. If so, it would be reasonable to fear the sensation of consciousness without senses, suspended alone in the cosmos, with no one to hear you, and no way to make yourself known. No reference point for counting time – a count that does not matter anyway in a literal eternity."
"You might wish that you still had a corporeal form, only so that you could make your mouth move to express your terror, to make the universal form of a terrified scream – the form of a letter O."
"But you won’t be able to. You just won’t!"
"This has been the Children’s Fun Fact Science Corner. Brought to you by shame, loneliness, and the letter..."
When Faith Fails You
"what do you mean I'm going to hell?! I was a good person and attended church regularly!"
"Ah yes, but you failed to put a blue feather in your hat and then turn in circles the times praising God Almighty on the fifth Sunday after your twelfth birthday. To the pit with you!!!"
There is an poignant episode from the Twilight Zone that brought me a sense of peace surrounding the concept of death.
Death was embodied by a handsome police officer who had been shot–played by a young Robert Redford–and begs to be let into the home of an elderly woman who had been living in perpetual fear of meeting "Mr. Death."
As the episode continues, she discovers much to her dismay that she welcomed Death into her home, but he warmly reassures her there is nothing to fear.
The episode ends with her finally offering her hand to Death after much protest, and they peacefully walk out together, arm in arm, into the light.
It was sweet and beautifully done. The 1962 episode was titled, "Nothing in the Dark."
That's how I imagine it to be.
A dashing Prince of Darkness telling me it's time to join him in guiding me to the other side.