Tag Archives: spectating

Strangling Stereotypes

Photograph by Chloe Green 2012

Meeting someone at a party or social occasion and revealing to them that you’ve trained to be a psychotherapist, usually evokes a discernible reaction.

Not always a pleasant one.

Scenarios I’ve encountered:

The Escape Artist likely to be thinking, “Oh dear god, get me away from her quickly! She’s definitely  dull, eerily earnest, and will probably spend the whole evening analysing my every move.”

The Dissenter“Isn’t psychotherapy merely a self indulgent pursuit with the sole intent of avoiding accountability and blaming your parents for everything?”

The Macho Man, “I talk sports, stocks, sex and statistics in no apparent order. Feelings are for females.”

The Veteran, “Been there. Done that. Have had sixteen therapists since I was sixteen. I know so much I could be YOUR therapist.  I mean – seriously!”

And finally The Virgin, “Wow! That’s amazing! It must be fate that I ended up meeting you tonight, because I’ve always thought about seeing a therapist and I have like a million stories that I think you’re going to be really interested in…”
One of the first clients I ever treated was a woman about 20 years older than me.  When I entered the waiting room to greet her, she dropped her jaw in disbelief.

“The therapy is with YOU?” 

I’m not sure what she was expecting. Maybe a few more wrinkles. A flowing cardigan and jade beads. I obviously didn’t meet her expectation of what a ‘proper’ therapist was supposed to look like.  She held a stereotype in her head, as we all have the tendancy to do.  Sometimes it is much easier to summarise people in one dimension (like I  have playfully done with my party goers above) than to stay receptive to the complexity of  all human beings, regardless of race, gender, nationality, religion, and even profession.

Stereotypes strangle.

It turned out that despite being in my thirties, with a leaning towards Death Cab for Cutie and a cupboard full of skinny jeans, I was still a good listener. And the client eventually realized that.

Writing and Psychotherapy require similar skills. If you are writing fiction, you owe it to your characters not to sum them up in a sentence (as fun and easy as that can be) Your characters should become your clients.  They need to be the ones at the party, keeping you in the corner, spilling their histories. Stay curious. Keep your ears open. Observe their body language and their gestures. Find out about their parents.  It does matter Mr Dissenter – I promise.

And if you are writing about yourself, then you have the pleasure and the pain of internal investigation. The two endeavours are bursting with benefits. And while each come with a handful of hazards, ultimately they share the same joyful purpose: to artfully activate transformation, leaving the recipient altered and opened, in ways both subtle and sweeping.

Write about stereotypes. Are you stereotyped in your world? Have you encountered obstacles as a result? OR Write about writing. What are your tricks for ‘fleshing’ out your characters? How do you avoid the pitfalls of flat packing and build more dimensional creatures instead? SHARE YOUR FINDINGS HERE! I’m the Good Listener, remember?!
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Mingle in the Mud

Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

I am relatively new to the world of blogging.  One of the reasons I circumvented it for so long and wrote only for myself to see (and my dog to listen to) was because I wasn’t especially enamoured with the word ‘blog’.

It’s not a pretty word. Remove the ‘L’ and you are wading in a swampy marsh, waste up in mud and slime.

Despite my dislike, I squelched ahead.  I pulled on the wellie boots I haven’t worn since leaving England, and I entered the mire. Surprise, surprise. Suddenly writing didn’t feel so lonely.  I was surrounded by ‘Bloggers’!  All of us making our own journeys through sludge in the hopes of delivering something special.  Something sparkly.  A shiny gem that can be rubbed so clean that it will become lucid in the hands of the reader.

There are a lot of us – millions in fact.  Some days I am so overwhelmed by how very overcrowded this bog of blogs is that I contemplate giving up in order to step back on the sidelines and watch instead. I haven’t been at it for long. Surely no one would notice me slink away? Life would feel safer – less chance of getting roughly elbowed in the ribs by an overenthusiastic daily poster with a rugged thirst for adjectives.

But I am choosing to mingle in the mud.

There are times for spectating and times for doing and this is my time for doing.  So instead of being intimidated by my fellow explorers, instead of feeling threatened by their band of followers, I feel encouraged by their tenacity instead.  I feel enlivened by the connection and the surprising sense of community I have never before associated with the quiet hum of my computer screen. And I feel deeply moved by the courageous recollections of my readers, learning how to Risk It, offering up their stories filled with spectrums of colour, inspiring me by example.  And I am reminded why I began this in the first place. Write To Be You.

Not even the most experienced writers nor the most seasoned bloggers will produce gems week after week. If it weren’t for the muddy, knobbly rocks, we would never a truly appreciate the crystals when they appear. Glinting in our palms. Urging us to get our hands mucky and keep sifting for more.

Your turn now! Think of a time when you opted out because you felt crowded out? Have you ever stopped yourself before starting, for fear of being inadequate or not being able to compare? Perhaps you set a goal after reading Round and Round We Go but you’ve yet to mobilise?

OR do you recall something you began but gave up too soon? Do you want to return to it?  Take a moment to suspend judgment and simply reflect on why you gave up.

Find your notebook.  Choose your pen and start writing.  Write for ten minutes. I invite you to share. Anything. The earthy pebbles and the shiny shells – both valuable in their own ways.  I’m here, mingling in the mud, waiting patiently to collect them all…
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