Have you ever felt like you’ve become completely fed up with your responsibilities—your job, your relationships, parenting, etc.? And then felt like you just can’t do it anymore? And now you don’t want to get up in the morning and can’t stand the thought of facing a new day? And you’re afraid that what used to be doable is now downright overwhelming? Even reading this is a major chore? You might have burnout.
But burnout describes people whose flames have died out. Burnout is ugly, depressing, unhealthy. Boring. Uninteresting. Old—as in, Hey man, whoa, like, you’re a real burnt out dude, ya know?
Wouldn’t you rather have a nicer sounding problem?
Well, compassionfatigue is here to save the day. If you’ve got compassion fatigue, you’re tired because you’ve over-cared, over-helped, over-loved. Isn’t that a whole lot better?
So, next time someone remarks on how haggard you look, how your temper has flared once too often, how you don’t seem to want to do fun things anymore, don’t say it’s because of your burnout—say it’s because of your compassion fatigue. You’ll still feel like crap—but people will respect you so much more.
For a type of job that often elicits such reactions as “How can you sit there all day and just listen to people?” or “I could never do that. I’d just tell them all to get a life”—and that’s just from clients—the world seems to be full of people who do indeed want to practice therapy and a myriad of types of therapists out there. I say seems to be because I did barely minimal research and couldn’t get any actual figures on this. And I say practice therapy both in the usual sense and the classic joke about not having it right yet.
People who seek therapy are often confused by how many types of therapists, or how many therapy disciplines, actually exist. An example of a discipline is clinical social work, which is the training and affiliation I have. If you want to know more about either this one or the others, John Grohol describes them on Psych Central. I can’t be bothered doing this myself. It’s Labor Day, and I have off.
And then there are all the many different types of therapy reflecting a godawful number of choices regarding schools of thought and techniques. One example of a fairly popular type of therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. There’s also ACT and EFT and EMDR and ECT and RET. Go ahead and look these up to see what they mean. There are also lots of other impressive ones, some with acronyms and some that don’t even have acronyms. While you’re doing your research, Google “Types of Therapy” or a phrase something like that to get a longer, fuller list of all the possibilities.
Me, I’m tired just thinking about it, so I’ll just be ending this post now…
I was doing a crossword puzzle recently and read this clue: “sign up for more issues.” A five-letter word. Do my first thoughts go anywhere near the correct answer, renew? No. My mind went immediately toward the notion of people signing up to have more psychological issues.
So,who would you sign up with? Your parents? Please Mom. Please Dad. I want, I want, I want more issues!!!
I advise doing the asking when you’re very young, then—hopefully in your formative years. I think that’s likely to be the most effective enrollment plan.
You want more issues? I’ll give you more issues, Mom replies. She turns to her husband. I’m leaving you. That’s right. It’s what you deserve for years of cheating on me with my sister. She stomps off, presumably to pack her bags, but turns around abruptly. Oh, and keep the kids.
Now there. You’ve got yourself some more issues—more than you already had.
And on a different tangent, unscrupulous therapy also came to mind. As in: You tell your shrink that you’re feeling good, ready to leave therapy, conquer the world…
Whoa. Not so fast, fella. Have I got a deal for you. I’ll give you some low self-esteem and even throw in some emotional intimacy issues. Just sign right here, please…And make sure to keep your standing appointment with me for the next couple of years.
Angry therapists can happen; we’re human just like anyone else. Among things that sometimes makes this therapist thera-pissed is how we are often portrayed in movies and on TV as inappropriate, bumbling fools who readily cross sexual or romantic boundaries with clients.
One thing that helps relieve the anger is a really good spoof. The movie AnalyzeThis featured Billy Crystal as psychiatrist Ben Sobel who has to treat mob boss Paul Vitti, played by Robert DeNiro. The following brief clip shows Dr. Sobel trying to help Vitti manage his anger.
(Note: Be prepared for NSFW language and violence.)
But oh how I loved everybody else/When I finally got to talk so much about myself…Dar Williams, “What Do You Hear in These Sounds?”
The above words are from singer-songwriter Dar Williams who wrote a brilliant and witty song called “What Do You Hear In These Sounds?” (on the CD End of the Summer, 1997) about the joys and vagaries of therapy.
“And she says ‘Oh’, I say ‘What?’…she says ‘Exactly’…”
Full lyrics of “What Do You Hear in These Sounds?” courtesy of Google Play:
I don’t go to therapy to find out if I’m a freak I go and I find the one and only answer every week And it’s just me and all the memories to follow Down any course that fits within a fifty minute hour And we fathom all the mysteries, explicit and inherent When I hit a rut, she says to try the other parent And she’s so kind, I think she wants to tell me something, But she knows that its much better if I get it for myself And she says
What do you hear in these sounds? What do you hear in these sounds?
I say I hear a doubt, with the voice of true believing And the promises to stay, and the footsteps that are leaving And she says “Oh, ” I say, “What?” she says, “Exactly, “ I say, “What, you think I’m angry Does that mean you think I’m angry?” She says “Look, you come here every week With jigsaw pieces of your past Its all on little soundbites and voices out of photographs And that’s all yours, that’s the guide, that’s the map So tell me, where does the arrow point to? Who invented roses?” And
What do you hear in these sounds? What do you hear in these sounds?
And when I talk about therapy, I know what people think That it only makes you selfish and in love with your shrink But oh how I loved everybody else When I finally got to talk so much about myself
And I wake up and I ask myself what state I’m in And I say well I’m lucky, ’cause I am like East Berlin I had this wall and what I knew of the free world Was that I could see their fireworks And I could hear their radio And I thought that if we met, I would only start confessing And they’d know that I was scared They’d would know that I was guessing But the wall came down and there they stood before me With their stumbling and their mumbling And their calling out just like me, and
The stories that nobody hears, and I collect these sounds in my ears, and That’s what I hear in these sounds, and That’s what I hear in these, That’s what I hear in these sounds.