Anticipating a new client in my counseling practice today, I came in early. Preparing for her arrival, I was reflecting on what little I knew about her, yet understanding how great her need was to begin the process of unwrapping and unpacking things that were standing in the way of moving on with life and relationships in satisfying and healthy ways.
The phone rang. The new client. She’s not coming. Not a surprise. Nor was her lack of clarity–read: reasons and excuses–she created to justify her decision to herself, and hopefully to me. First she cited location. She wanted to meet outside, not in my office. When I said that could easily be done, she went to having a too busy day. When I asked which day might work for her, she said she couldn’t commit because she had transportation difficulties. How did that pop up so quickly? It’s not a surprise and it reminds me of that great story I read somewhere in the deep, distant past:
There was a farmer who lived way out in the country. He had few neighbors and the ones he did have were distant.
One day, a neighbor did drop by and asked to borrow a particular length of rope. The farmer said,
“No. You cannot borrow my rope.”
The neighbor was puzzled, thinking that this is just not the way things are supposed to work out there in the country. He felt that folks should be able to count on each other for help, and that included sharing what they had. So, he asked for a reason why he could not borrow the rope.
“I won’t lend you the rope because it’s holding my milk,” said the farmer.
“That’s ridiculous,” the neighbor replied. The farmer did not have to think for even a second before adding:
“If I don’t want to lend you my rope, any reason will do!”
Why couldn’t the farmer simply tell his neighbor he would not lend him the rope? Why did he have to make up a reason?
It is so difficult for some people to be honest with themselves. From that place, it is impossible to be honest with others. Although my pending client was filled with reasons why she doesn’t want to come in, her greatest hope is that I believe her and don’t see the fear she has of actually reflecting on her own life, pain, relationships and her very complicated past. I understand. I hope the rope does keep her milk together, until she is ready!
It’s a good opportunity for me to use the time she left free to reflect on places where I might be being less than honest with myself, where I may be justifying things to myself erroneously, and comfortably uncomfortable with my reasons or excuses. How about you?
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler offers the relationship help that makes a difference. She works with clients in her office and through video conferencing through Skype. No matter where you are, you can work with her directly. You can contact her at the Optimize Center in Escondido, CA at 760.593.4604.