Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Shrink

People tell me things they'd never tell anyone else. It happens all the time. Although I have mixed feelings about that sometimes, I mostly like it and I am happy that people trust me. Some of what they tell me is very personal. It is often told in confidence and I'm pretty good at keeping things confidential. Here is what I can't figure out: why me? Do they trust me? Am I a good listener? Am I the only person in the room that day? I really don't know.

Some random examples:

A work friend recently told me he was probably going to quit and move back to the town he lived in before moving here for this job. He did have good reasons, personal reasons that really didn't have anything to do with the job. He had no hesitation revealing his thoughts to me, even though he knew I might have to break that confidence at some point if I thought it would interfere with our business operation.

A female friend once gave me an explanation about why size matters sometimes. She and I never had any experience with each other in which that topic would come up, so to speak, but she trusted me to hear her explanation.

A work friend who is usually very private has confided in me details about an emotionally stressful family situation he is going through. He knows I have had a somewhat similar situation myself and he needed to talk it out with someone. He talked it out with me. I invited the conversation and am happy to help. I am also surprised he accepted the invitation.

Another friend has told me about her current boyfriend and her previous one. Compared them a little. I know both guys so it was interesting to hear her perspective. Also interesting to hear her share such private emotional matters even though she and I are really not a lot more than casual friends.

These examples and a few others hit me at the same time today, as did something else. You know those tests people take to see what jobs they might be good at based on certain personality and attitude characteristics? One of the tests I took back in college indicated that I might be good as a psychologist.

Wow.

I briefly considered that option and took a couple of psych classes but decided that although I can listen to what my friends are going through and provide some emotional support and feedback, I don’t think I have the patience to do that for a living. I can’t imagine listening to the problems of total strangers hour after hour, day after day, and take on the responsibility of helping them solve those problems. I respect people who can do that. I have been in therapy myself a couple of times years ago and I understand the benefits and respect the practitioners. I have read many self-help books and Psychology Today articles. Sometimes I provide unsolicited Dr. Phil-style analysis for certain friends, and I take my observations seriously because I sense that these friends pay attention to what I tell them and I don’t want to get it wrong. But I don’t think I could be a shrink for a living.

I am happy that so many people trust me with their private feelings. I am insatiably curious about their feelings too. But the circle of friends I have who I trust with my own feelings is much smaller … two or three at the most. I don’t think those particular friends would dig as deep into my head as I would dig into theirs and I’m OK with that. Maybe that’s a good thing. The self-discovery journey I’ve written about during the past few years is nearing a new chapter and those friends have helped me navigate the journey in ways I barely have the words for. A real shrink could certainly help me turn the page but I don’t have the time. I am not in any kind of crisis mode but I am impatient. As I get ready to move on I realize I have solved some problems but opened the door on a few new ones. I guess this is simply life. I wish I knew how to make it a much simpler life.

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