About a year ago, I finally got up the courage, for the first time, to start writing a book,. (See this blog post for some thoughts about “The P-Word” — procrastination.)
I started this blog, on 1/1/13, as way to move forward with that book. During my first days of blogging — and overcoming my natural insecurity of doing something new — I sometimes “went to the well” of what I had already written: the draft of my book.
But I’ve resisted quoting chapters from this book, for the most part, as I’ve continued blogging.
Because I wrote that stuff last year, people! And I feel like I’ve been learning so much, every day since then — writing these posts, doing my work, meeting new people, having new conversations with friends, thinking new thoughts — that I assume that what I wrote months ago is now “out-moded.”
Also, I usually wake up in the morning wanting to write about what feels relevant “in the moment,” as a way to help me deal with whatever is facing me that day.
Also (I confess), I can be very self-critical. I often have fears of reading what I’ve written before, because I know that my inner critic — my internalized judgment — might be present, and I don’t want to hear what that critic has to say.
My worst fear is this: if that harsh, inner critic is present when I re-read what I’ve written before, I might stop writing.
And I want to keep writing.
So I’ve resisted reading what I’ve written before — in my book and in these blog posts.
At the same time, writing these blog posts has been helping to quiet down my inner critic. Which has been wonderful. So I’ve gotten up the courage, every once in a while, to re-read previous blog posts and look at chapters I’ve written for the book. I’ve looked at something I’ve created and said, “It was good (enough).”
So what does this post — that I’m writing now — have to do with the friggin’ title? You know, that title you read, a while ago: “We really don’t know how we affect other people.”
Here’s the deal: I wrote a chapter, for the book, with that title. And I woke up this morning thinking about that topic.
And I’ve decided that I’d like to share the draft of that chapter, here, today.
So, here it is, ladies and gentlemen ….
We Really Don’t Know How We Affect Other People
(Draft of Chapter #? from AFOG: Another F***ing Opportunity for Growth)
by Ann Koplow
When I am supervising and teaching social work students, here’s one of the (perhaps more annoying) things I might say to them:
“While you are working with people, you may offer an insight, analysis, or other intervention that you just know is brilliant — that encompasses everything you know about this work. But that comment — while it shows creativity, empathy, and skill — may not be the game changer you hope it is. On the other hand, you will say or do things you barely notice which have a major impact on somebody’s healing. We just don’t know.”
I don’t know how that speech affects my students. But here’s an example from my experience.
One day, many years ago, I was talking to my own therapist about some difficult memories of feeling scared, lonely, and sad in the hospital. When I shivered almost imperceptibly, she offered me a blanket, rushed to get it when I nodded, and handed it to me.
When I think about my years of therapy with her, that’s the first memory that often comes to mind. The blanket. How she noticed I was cold and frightened. How she asked me if I wanted a blanket. How I said yes. How she gave it to me. How comforting it felt, as I went on, now warmer, to tell her more.
During our work together, she showed me, in so many beautiful and effective ways, that she heard and accepted me. But it’s the blanket she offered me one rainy, raw day that touched me in a way nothing else had.
Who knew? She probably didn’t, either.
I think about that blanket, sometimes, when I feel proud — or when I feel nervous — about something I’ve said or done as a therapist to others.
© 2013 Ann Koplow
Here’s the reason I wanted to include that chapter here, today.
Last night, my son and I had dinner with an old friend, Jon, whom I’ve known since Junior High School, and his wife, Debbie. Jon had reached out to me yesterday, at around 5 PM, out of the blue, and invited us to join them for dinner. And we were able and happy to do so.
Jon and I were both really tired and also (I think) more stressed than usual, partly because of what happened here in Boston on April 15 (the Marathon bombings). So, over dinner, he and I were having some heated discussions about how the authorities had responded to the situation in Boston.
I got mad at him, during dinner, and expressed it. I felt a little bad about that, at the time, because I don’t feel particularly comfortable with my own anger (I’m working on it!).
Last night at dinner, I was afraid that my anger might have hurt the other people at the table (especially my son, who is 15). But after the dinner, when my son and I were driving home, I found out what my son and my friend’s wife had been doing when I had been getting pissed off at Jon. They, apparently, were looking at each other, smiling, and getting a kick out of it.
In other words, it was fine. My worst fear — that my anger had been hurtful and inappropriate, to a damaging degree — was not true.
I really didn’t know how I was affecting people at the table.
And, one more thing, before I end this post.
My friend’s lovely and kind wife, Debbie, told me last night that she is reading this blog. And she appreciates it. And she’s getting something out of it.
That means the world to me.
I didn’t know how I was affecting her.
We really don’t know.
Thanks to you for reading today. And thanks to Jon, Debbie, and — last, but certainly not least — my son.