I frequently use my dad as my ad hoc clinical supervisor. He’s a doctor (retired, he’d be quick to tell you) so it’s not quite the same as talking to another social worker. But he’s one of the smartest people I know and he’s also very Zen Master, which is sometimes just the combination I need. Recently I was complaining about someone I work with (I’ll spare you the boring details) and I ended with, “She just gets on my nerves.” To which my dad replied, “You could just… not let her get on your nerves.”
I keep turning that over in my mind. This is what we ask our clients to do, right? This is some kind of cognitive behavioral therapy mantra: don’t let it get to you. That’s the strategy I go to with people who are experiencing stress that’s out of their control. I help them find a way to let it go a little, to react in a different way, to retrain their brains. But what if I can’t CBT myself? What do you do when you’re the one who’s stuck?
This is not a new feeling by any means. I’ve had bad jobs. I’ve had bad supervisors. I’ve been to bad therapists (or at least they were having bad days; I like to give my colleagues the benefit of the doubt). I was able to walk away from those situations and from those people. That’s not an option in this instance. I work with this woman and that’s just that. So what do I do with my feelings (which are not facts, as I remind my patients daily!)? How do I take my dad’s very fair point and not LET her get on my nerves?
I’ve written before about how important self-reflection is in this work. Faced with a patient that makes us cringe or a job duty we really don’t want to perform, we are tasked to look beneath it. Why am I feeling this way? Where is this coming from? What can I do about it? But all the self-reflection in the world only gets you so far. I KNOW why I don’t like this woman; it’s partly because she doesn’t like me! (A topic for a whole other post about my own insecurities and ego. I will spare you that particular trip into my psyche). I know why I’m struggling with this working relationship; it’s because I’m struggling with this whole job and this is just another symptom of my frustration. I know all this because I’ve talked with myself about it. The question is now, what to DO about it?
I suppose I know the answer already. It’s what this whole blog is ostensibly about: I have to go back to supervision. In the meantime, I can vent to friends; try to shake it off when I feel it; and, of course, not let her get to me. I’m the one in charge of my own feelings (as I tell my patients. Daily. I’m starting to see why they get frustrated with my helpful suggestions). I’m trying to remind myself, this is just a moment. And if I forget, my dad can put on his clinical supervisor hat to remind me. I’m lucky that way.