These few posts are on the difficulty I have being retired — I still want to contribute, but largely I find myself being a resource looking for a need. I suspect that such difficulties are common in our society.
Being a therapist I had a designated doing. For 25 years, I ran a small day-based retreat center with my wife, predominantly engaged in teaching anger management, as well as relationship skills. Over this time, I worked with over 4000 people (mainly in group therapy); I presented over 300 workshops, and ran up to 5 ongoing weekly therapy groups.
I was a very effective therapist, and I was very satisfied with my work, in my ability to work with and be a resource to those struggling with life issues. My clients ranged from practicing therapists (in later years, about 25% of my caseload) to people mandated to come — others had power (usually legal) over them.
People came from all walks of life, about a third of them required by the courts because of domestic violations (equally men and women — it is/was a myth for me that domestic violation is a gender issue). It was also a myth that these people were somehow bad, or different from the general population. In some respects, they were healthier than average, having “chosen: to work on their issues.
Over the years, one probation officer sent me over sixty clients; eventually he found that only two re-offended after coming to my anger weekend — a single weekend in which they changed their lives. For me, that is an incredible statistic.
Every few months, someone who had attended one of these weekend workshops (years before) would come to my office and spontaneously thank me — again as a result of a single weekend, they had made profound changes in their lives. A number of these clients had been to as many as six previous anger management programs; one said “No therapist has ever gotten into my head and to the root of my anger like David has.”
Amazing. And very satisfying.
Because of results like these, I was very aware of my ability to contribute. I know I am effective; I know that what I teach works. Yet, once I retired, I lost much of the ability to be such a resource.
During my career, I observed how people would slowly evolve over a few years. And I also observed how I was evolving. Especially I used to tell people that, as a therapist, I was being paid to do my own personal growth.
The work that I did predominantly came from my own growth — an essential component of good therapy. Therapy is not an intellectual exercise — it is a relationship between two people in which they explore the difficulties of living.
Yet, I am very grounded in intellect. I actually have six university degrees (BSc, MSc, MD, CRCPC, MA-ABS, PhD) as well as many diplomas in diverse subjects (cooking, hospitality, various therapies, amongst others). As a teenager, I started out to be a theoretical astrophysicist (think Stephen Hawking). Synchronicity kept leading me in different directions, shifting to biophysics, medicine, anesthesia, and eventually psychotherapy. I also kept having difficulties with relationships, having totally shut off my emotionality because of Family of Origin pain. Such explorations and difficulties generally became part of my own growth.
Simultaneously, I had a number of mystical experiences that transformed me. These together with the events of synchronicity that seemed to guide me deepened my sense of trust in the universe. Because of past experiences, I had had little use of the belief systems of religiosity, but simultaneously a deep sense of trust in Spirit.
The most important of these mystical experiences was a three year period of continuously being in a state called Cosmic Consciousness (see the 1899 book of the same title by Maurice Bucke, MD), an experience of profound peace that developed over six months and then faded over the next two and a half years. But then I went into five years of despair because I did not know what to do with this CC experience.
Synchronicity led me again into good experiential therapy, and I managed to work with a number of world-class therapists as I transformed my life in ways that still astound me. And, as my skills developed, I came to appreciate how limited most therapy was, and how risk-aversive most therapists were.
Up until the 1980s, therapy had been an unregulated, wild and crazy field, with many options. Some of these options were undoubtedly dangerous, some were frankly abusive, but many were brilliant in the ways in which they challenged people to mature in wisdom. Fortunately I found the brilliance.
To be continued.