Archive for April 2014

Success!

Acorn WebFirst, a small report on what my last couple weeks have been. Yesterday, I gave a tour of the Gonzaga campus for teenage refugees. The week before that, I volunteered to work with doctors who work with chronic and terminally ill children. Slightly before that, I took my comps (comprehensive finals for those not in the know), and scored somewhere in “out of the park” territory. Can we take a moment to acknowledge how crazy fulfilling my life is right now?

Now then, if we’re all done cheering (or maybe that was just me, and probably also Clark and Dan), I want to say a little bit about what I’ve found out about what success means as a counselor. Success is something you have to get very zen about if you want to make it as a counselor. If you judge yourself by how many complete turnarounds your clients make, you’re not going to be a very happy camper. If even you hit some kind of hot streak, and all your clients pull full 180’s, you have to remember that they were the ones that did the heavy lifting in the first place. Success in the healthy counselor is not achievement, but rather a state of mind.

Here’s therapy in its skinniest nutshell. A client comes in and (hopefully/eventually) says “look at all this crap!” The counselor looks at it and says “Wow, that is a lot of crap! What are you going to do about it?” Eventually, the two sort through the crap, and the client goes “I can deal with my crap now, thanks!” For those counselors out there with a god complex, remember this little dose of reality; our job is to teach crap filing systems.

Some might think this sounds jaded. I think it’s a beautiful thing. My job as a counselor is to hear the client’s stories, challenge the client’s sadness, and to ultimately convince the client that the power to help themselves has been within them the entire time. Getting to see that journey and that growth is, I think, one of the coolest things a human being can be a part of.

-Austin

A Companion Piece

Calendar Web

By the time you read this post, it will have already been reviewed by both Clark and Austin. The two of them will have questioned my choices, challenged my presentation, and told me to drop whole paragraphs. In fact, they told me to axe this first paragraph. And it is exactly what I need.

As a writer, I am painfully lazy. I have an abundance of ideas. But, motivation to follow through on a story can be as elusive as a good simile. I have started several plays over the last three years, and none of them are finished. Sometimes I go for weeks without writing anything.

Unless I have someone to hold me accountable.

The reason I haven’t missed a post on this blog yet is because I have two people counting on me for my contribution. I agreed to write or give feedback on a post every week. This motivates and excites me. Our critique of each others posts allow for a collaborative process that always improves our work. And this collaboration is bearing fruit in a way my “lone wolf” writing never did.

I have a reason to write every week. In fact, I have to write every week. And as a result, I am looking for more opportunities to write and collaborate. And so, next month I will be starting a new blog with another good friend of mine. But more on that later.

I couldn’t keep one blog going by myself in the past. It was called American Kryptonite, and Clark still owns the domain. Now, the idea of two doesn’t seem like enough. This is all due to my collaborators. Without them, I wouldn’t be writing like I am. I would be wasting ideas and missing opportunities. And when I did write, no one would be there to lovingly hack out chunks of it.

Gold in them Hills is a testimony to my love of writing. Not my skill or proficiency, but my need to write. What little talent I may have is being fostered by my partners. The process is ongoing, but it gives me hope that I just might be able to finish a play one of these days.

So when you read any of our posts, just know that the final product has been brought to you by three people, not one. Spread the blame accordingly.

-DC

Full Circle

Plumeria WebWith Spring in the air, Missoula is transforming from gray and lifeless to colorful and thriving. Bikes are being tuned up, women are searching for their razors, and buskers are claiming the most profitable corners.

With the improved weather, my creativity has woken from its slumber, and I find myself painting, building sites, and singing at the top of my lungs. It’s incredible.

Yet, now that I’ve reached a spiritual peak, I can’t help but look down and wonder if I’m a little bit crazy. Less than a month ago I felt like a misfit that was painfully out of place. After two weeks of being loved on and supported by my friends, church, and family, I feel like I’m mere steps away from greatness.  Suddenly I’m brave enough to introduce myself to new people, say yes to more opportunities, and apply for jobs that test the upper limits of my skills.

And all of this is possible because my friends and family love me too much to let me stay the same. When they saw that I was talking myself into a destructive lifestyle, they sat me down and talked some sense into me. When they saw that I was starting to feel hopeless and hide away in my house, they gave me reasons to go outside and experience the changing landscape around me.

So I don’t have a story for you today: I have a challenge. I challenge you to redefine what love can be. It’s important to love and accept people where they’re at, but it’s even more important to help them grow and improve. Because people are dynamic, and sometimes people are going through a gray and lifeless season. It’s at the point that we need to take a breath of fresh air, put on our adult pants, and try to put a little Spring in their step.

Just Seven Things

Seven Web

I’m trying to look at things differently. Turns out my clients were right; it’s really hard.

For me, change is a thing that digs deeply quickly. I’m a ponderer, I think out the things that I do, and can quickly create reasoning for my behavior. As a result, everything I do that doesn’t work out for me is  a symptom of a sick society.

We all do it sometimes (it’s called cognitive dissonance). We don’t want to acknowledge a feeling we have, so we drown it in context and situation. We kill it with cognition. The anxiety doesn’t go away, but we can blame it on something abstract, something outside of ourselves. We’re not changing what made us feel bad, we’re changing the ambiguities around the excuses we’ve made. This is what has been tripping me up for most of my life, I think.

I’ve been thinking about how to change it.

We know from the science that are seven basic emotions. Every human being on the planet has them, we’ve had them since we were monkeys. We make them much harder than they need to be.

Happiness, Sadness, Fear, Anger, Contempt, Disgust, Surprise.

That’s it. They may mix, increase, or decrease, but those are what we have. You’d think owning seven different parts of ourselves would be easy. Yet the failure to do so is the cause of most conflicts on the planet.

Just seven things, but we don’t own them because we don’t like what they tell us. Fear tells me I am not as in control of the situation as I think. Anger and contempt tell me just how much of a jerk I can be. Sadness reminds me that everything has to come to an end.

Facing our emotions means facing the things that make us weak and temporary. But without them I truly believe change is impossible. Emotions are the rabbit trail that lead me to the core of who I am, and until I follow them through what brambles and briers may follow, they won’t lead anywhere but in circles.

-Austin