I Want You to Hate Me
I hate my personal trainer. Really I love her and what she does for me. She pushes me, holds me accountable, encourages me to work harder. But I told her right from the start, "At the end of each session, I want to hate you." This is how I know she's done her job. If I loved her at the end, she wasn't really doing anything for me.
I want my counseling clients to feel the same way about me, although HATE is a strong term. I’m not here to pretend to listen to you for our allotted time and then simply collect my payment – I’m here because I actually give a damn and want to help you overcome obstacles and reach your full potential.
You Mother Sergeant!
There is something to be said about ‘tough love.’ I like to think of myself as a cross between a mother and a drill sergeant. (I was going to title this section drill mother but mother sergeant seemed more provocative).
What is a mother’s primary role in her child’s life? Besides making sure they wear clean underwear and eat something other than gummy bears and Pop Tarts, mothers work every day to make sure their children learn to think for themselves so when they become adults, they are a valuable and fully-functioning member of society who can create a life that brings them joy, love, and prosperity.
While their kids might hate the fact they are “forced” to clean their room, follow certain rules and be respectful toward others, mothers – good ones anyway – don’t really care, because they know their job is critical and they take it seriously.
What is the job of a drill sergeant? To train soldiers so that they are fully prepared for whatever battle they are sent to. It is not the job of a drill sergeant to bring coffee and donuts to boot camp each morning and make sure the soldiers all got a good night’s sleep and a nice hot shower. They don’t care because they take their job very seriously – to help soldiers stay alive.
Well, sadly, life often feels like a battle. I know it does to many of my clients, anyway. Though the “enemy” lies within themselves, they still get bloodied and bruised from the self-critical, anxious, self-doubting and/or depressive voice in their head. I, like a mother sergeant, take my job very seriously. While it is my job to tailor protocols to fit specific personalities and bring awareness to clients through the tools I have gathered through education and active practice, it is NOT my job to coddle clients or lie to them, or worse, allow them to lie to themselves.
Drop and Give Me Honesty
Like my trainer who doesn’t take it easy on me when I whine about having to do 3 sets of 20 push-ups after just spending half an hour on the treadmill, I know I need to push my clients to do the work. And, just like I trust that my trainer won’t push me too far, but just far enough, my clients and I build the kind of relationship where they learn they can totally trust me to push them just this side of total discomfort.
I remember one time during a workout I was feeling weird and light-headed. It was my own damn fault as I had been running late that morning and did not eat, yet chugged a very large coffee on the way to the studio. I could tell about 7 minutes into my workout that I was very off – I felt sweaty and jittery and not well. But, knowing that my trainer usually won’t have any objections from me, I didn’t even bother to voice the fact that I was feeling off.
It was my trainer, all by herself, who asked me what was wrong, taking note of my “off” color and shakiness. She was paying attention, which is her job. She got me a banana from her bag, had me sit and eat it and drink some water. Within about 5 minutes I felt like a completely different person. She not only recognized I was in distress but knew exactly what to do to help me. That incident made me trust her even more.
I consider myself a good therapist, not just because I genuinely care about people and want to help them succeed, but because I have been trained to recognize when a person is truly emotionally hurting, and when they are stuck in a self-destructive rut and, for lack of a better term, “whining” about why everything seems to be going wrong for them and why they can’t find the perfect job, partner, or group of friends, etc. I know firsthand that believing oneself to be a victim of outside circumstances instead of identifying personal patterns that cause us to make bad or limiting choices does not do a friggin’ thing for our growth as an individual.
Showing Up Together
At the end of the day, each individual has to decide whether or not they really want to change; whether they really want to uncover their deep, dark secrets, and whether they have the courage to face those secrets and walk through them to the other side.
And, just like my trainer who gives me a smile and a fist bump before I limp off to the locker room, at the end of a session, I want my clients to know that I showed up as well…. That I'd been there routing them on even though they did all the hard work.
Devon Herndon is a Licensed Professional Clinical/Substance Abuse Counselor, Personal Life Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, and a nationally certified teacher. She is committed to helping young people be their highest selves in all areas: body, mind, and spirit. Her expertise, enthusiasm, energy and educational background serve to create a unique blend of services and techniques employed to help you reach your goals. For counseling sessions, coaching, or training, please contact her at 505.469.0779 or firstname.lastname@example.org.