Interact Journal Integrative Ideas for the Process-Oriented Psychotherapist

Categories Supervision Dialogs

On having an agenda

I keep having an agenda for people. Deep down I want them to get better. Say some stuff that will convince me to stop it.

I find that amusing. You are asking me to do the very thing you think you shouldn’t do. There is nothing I or anyone can say that will change your inner should/want system until you are ready.

I suggest you try trusting yourself. Honor your agenda-having part.

Do an experiment. For a few weeks, purposefully and consciously attempt to make your clients get better. Try really hard.

My guess is that when you get tired of doing all the work and taking responsibility for someone else’s behavior, you will want something else for yourself. Even if you don’t, you will be in control of your agenda-having rather than your agenda- having being in control of you.

What do you mean, want something else for myself?

When what you want is that somebody else change, then that somebody else is in charge of you getting what you want. You enabled that person to be in charge, by getting it into your head that if he doesn’t change, you are responsible. Your sense of competency is temporarily in his hands. He is not only in charge of whether he changes or not, but he is also in charge of your perceived success. During the moments that someone else is in charge of how you experience yourself, you are in a dependent position relative to that person. When your professional satisfaction is dependent upon whether or not someone else makes the changes you think they should make, ah, what power they have. All they have to do is remain resistant to your ideas and you are doomed to feel bad. I recommend that you want yourself to change so you can have some control over your success rate.

He works hard, acts like he goes through an impasse and appears to leave session resolved. The next week he returns unchanged, as dysfunctional as ever.

Indeed, some people seem committed to their dysfunction. Someday there may be a DSM diagnosis of “commitment to misery.” You are probably aware that sometimes a person can intellectually know a thing is true, but doesn’t really believe it, completely and in a deep way.

Well, even if you don’t believe it, I invite you to “know” that the universe is unfolding as it should. To enjoy yourself and thrive in this profession, find and access the expanded Dalai Lama part of yourself who has complete faith in everyone’s innate desire to work through their issues or not, in their own way, and in their own time. Give up on the possibility of fixing this man. Let go of hoping he will work things out sometime before he dies. Or not. Breathe, connect to yourself, find that inner flicker of unconditional positive regard, be aware of his process, stay out of his system, and keep inviting him to put his attention back onto himself. ¯

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