Day 432: You must have some idea

This post was inspired by this (inaccurate) thought of mine, this morning:

I have no idea what I’m going to blog about today

… which reminded me of a psychologist I met, about 18 years ago, at a hospital psychiatric unit, where I did my first year of training as a therapist. Let’s call him … “Dr. Him.”

I would characterize Dr. Him as “hard to read.” I had trouble finding emotional clues in his face or in his body language, to get a sense of what he was thinking.  In ways, he was the very model of a modern psychotherapist.*

When I find somebody difficult to read, I project — or “mind read” —  even more with that person.  And I know I’m not alone in that. All year, at my training, I observed many people trying to figure out what Dr. Him was thinking.

Dr. Him didn’t say very much in the therapy groups at the hospital. But when he spoke, people listened.

There was a certain “catch-phrase” Dr. Him would use, in therapy groups. If somebody started a sentence with “I have no idea”  (examples: I have no idea why I’m here/what I want/why I did that/where I’m going), Dr. Him would reply:

You must have some idea.

And each time, the person had more to say.

Personally, I usually avoid catch-phrases, because I don’t want my responses to seem rote, or rehearsed.  But catch-phrases stick, don’t they?

I wanted to tell you a couple more stories about Dr. Him, today. In both of these stories, he has less of a starring — that is, more of a supporting — role.

During that first-year internship, I felt pretty insecure in my new role as therapist.  And when I feel insecure, I tend to project judgment onto certain people.

When I was having self-judgmental thoughts, such as

You don’t know what you’re doing! What makes you think you can be a good therapist?

… I could imagine other people having those same thoughts about me, too.  For me, during that year, Dr. Him was usually “it.”

I recognized that I didn’t know what Dr. Him was really thinking, and I would tell myself to stop having those thoughts and projections. How did I tell myself to stop?

Maybe I imagined a stop sign, like this one, from my trip last month, to Panama:

Image

(Although I don’t speak Spanish, so my memory is probably less than accurate, there.)

No matter how I tried to stop them,  those pervasive negative messages kept coming back, during that internship.

One morning, when I was getting ready to leave my home and go to the hospital, the judgments were particularly loud and strong. That morning, I really believed the self-doubts. And, I imagined Dr. Him judging me, too.

As a result, I felt exhausted. Almost paralyzed.  And I remember staring at myself in the mirror and talking to myself, like so:

You’re afraid of screwing up, Ann. That’s what it is.  Okay, try this! Today, your GOAL is to screw up, to make mistakes. If you make a mistake, you’ve met your goal!

That freed me up, in ways I found astonishing.  The judgmental thoughts — and projections — fell away. And I left the house, eager to meet the day.

Here’s my second story, about Dr Him:

At the last staff meeting of anybody’s internship, people would give feedback, as a way of saying goodbye. I have several memories of my last staff meeting, at that psychiatric unit, but these stand out:

  1. I was afraid, as time was running short, that I would NOT get my feedback.
  2. I got my feedback, at the very end of the meeting.
  3. Several people said positive things, as they said goodbye to me.
  4. Dr. Him said, “You’re an intern?  I consider you a colleague.”

I was going to write, “I have no idea what image to use for this post …”

…. but I did have some idea.

Thanks to Dr. Him, to people who try to stop unhelpful thoughts (as best they can), and to you — of course! — for stopping by, today.


* I was thinking of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Very Model of a Modern Major-General” there. If you’re interested, here’s a version of that song, from 1980, with (perhaps) familiar faces.**

** Including Kevin Kline and Linda Rondstadt. Also, thanks to ThePenzancePirate, for uploading that video on YouTube.

Categories: inspiration, Nostalgia, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , | 40 Comments

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40 thoughts on “Day 432: You must have some idea

  1. That was a very nice parting gift from Dr. Him, Ann. And since this post of your has a little bit to do with insecurity, it is time for me to ask: Why is my smiling hat photo not included in your community gallery on your page? Wait, Mark, stop. All is good.

    • I’m glad you commented, Mark — as always! — and very glad you asked that question.

      I have no idea. Honestly.

      I chose a WordPress widget called “community” and I am shocked that you’re not there. Obviously, my assumptions about how WordPress makes those choices are … incorrect. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about THAT, but rest assured, if I were making the choices? You would be there, smile, hat, and all.

    • I fixed it, Mark. There you are.

      • I just looked. I am a happy community member. If somewhat high maintenance today. Thank you, Ann! I hope it was an easy fix.

      • It was an interesting and easy fix, Mark. I learned something, as I always do from you.

  2. Great article, Ann! I know what that parlyzing feeling is like. So what if we make mistakes? Hopefully, we can learn to give it another shot. I’m not talking mistakes that end up hurting another. Just clarifying. xxoo, Amy

  3. Mandy

    It’s really a comfort to hear from others who experience self-doubt. Just goes to show, it’s almost always self-projection. (Note to self…) 🙂

  4. I love that video!

    And… I love you and your vulnerability, honesty, beauty and truth.

    I also think Dr Him’s feedback was powerful. Nice work there Ann!

  5. Great article Ann. I really like the way, you can talk to yourself and get rid of doubt etc.
    Irene

  6. Thanks Ann
    i had no idea
    what i was going to read.
    it was worth finding out 🙂

  7. “I have no idea…” or “You know…” or “So…”

    I wonder what I say as a catch phrase. They can lurk about under the surface, barely noticeable to ourselves. But, when someone points it out, they are like a scarlet letter, or a big zit on the end of the nose.

    A junior high teacher friend always had a special day at the end of the year for his classes. They were given time to mimic him in front of the class about any of his mannerisms and teaching style they chose. Boy, was that hilarious. They nailed him perfectly with his actions and cliches.

    Lots of people in very public roles come across as in-control and competent. Often, they are quite insecure when they aren’t in that role. Kind of a puzzle.

    Thanks for your interesting post.

    • Thank YOU, Jim, for this interesting comment. I’m particularly entranced by the story of your teacher friend.

      I think this might be a catch-phrase of mine (always used authentically): I’m so glad you’re my reader.

  8. I totally freak out when I meet and have to work with people I cannot read, who have no facial expressions, whose greatest facial movement is to blink and then go back to blank stare!

  9. I should adopt this idea of “I have no idea”. very creative post, it’s made from no idea at all. 🙂

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  11. i like Dr. Him. I’m glad the story went in that direction. I was fearing the worst.

    And that reminds me that last week, I received a call from someone very bright very direct, a person who I always suspected thought of me as a scatterbrained incompetent (although in a likeable way). Guess what? He spent more than 15 minutes on the phone telling me how wonderful he thought I was; how he’d always thought I was wonderful; how he has worked with hundreds of people but thinks …. (really good things about me).

    You just never know what people are thinking, do you? Usually, it’s a lot better than the dialogue we’d write for them, if we were the author of their words.

    • I’m so glad that happened to you. I hope you remember it, especially at times when you really need to.

      And it’s true, we just never know what people (or camels) are thinking. That easily could have been the title of this blog.

  12. Sometimes, though, I do think I know what your camel is thinking. Your camel is like one of those portraits whose eyes follow you no matter where you are in the room, only with thoughts. That is one very deep camel.

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