Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Abuse of Therapy

Therapy has come a long way over the last few decades. It used to be that only truly mentally ill people went to the insane asylum, and it was a big, dirty secret. Nowadays, it’s really easy to find a friend or family member who goes to therapy. It’s even easier to find people who are on some kind of mood medication. The stigma is much better than it used to be.

However, there is still a long way to go. I still hear comments about how a divorced woman could possibly be a marriage counselor. They are rare, but they happen. My dad still doesn’t think I have a “real” job and that will probably never change. And now, the therapy world has been around long enough that there have been changes in the verbiage or reversal of ideas. Freud was a genius back in the day, now some of his ideas are discounted. Church/spirituality used to be seen as a psychological crutch for people who needed one. Now there are classes in master’s programs on spirituality and how to use it appropriately in therapy.

I am not sure who thought of this idea, and quite frankly I’m too lazy to look it up. But the idea that “no one can MAKE you feel anything” became a big buzz phrase years ago. Now? I think that it is mostly just psycho-babble.

Of course there is some truth to it. When I discuss this concept with clients who are being asked to travel down a very painful road, I tell them about Viktor Frankl. He wrote a book called “The Meaning of Life.” My understanding is that he was a Holocaust survivor. He lost everything. I mean everything, like Job of the Old Testament. Most of his family were killed. All of his possessions were taken. He lived in a concentration camp and slept in his own urine and feces. It was in those conditions that he arrived at the bulk of his psychology and philosophy. He determined that the one thing that another person can never take away from you, is your freedom to react. He chose to be positive and helped others around him. I’m quite sure he survived long enough to be released because of his disposition. I have the utmost admiration for him.

I don’t know if that is where the idea that no one can MAKE us feel anything comes from or not, but he is the example that comes to mind when I think of the truth of that concept. But like anything else, there is another side.

Where is our common sense? Being human is about having emotions and responses. If other people did not affect us, we would have to be rocks. Brainless. Heartless. I know people like that and I’m sure you do too. And I am convinced without a doubt, that those kinds of people are NOT the epitome of mental health.

There is one time that saying, “I am not responsible for your feelings” may be appropriate. That is when other people try to manipulate us with guilt that is not legitimate. Or when standing up to an abuser causes them to have painful consequences, something like that. But 90% of the time I have heard people say, “I am not responsible for your feelings” or something similar, it is nothing more than an excuse for really bad behavior.

You can be insensitive to others, say hurtful and/or mean things. You can be an asshole and blurt out whatever you feel and then let yourself off the hook by saying how others respond to you isn’t your problem.

And I say that is utterly ridiculous. Of course we are responsible for how we effect other people. We have no right to walk on others or their feelings. No right whatsoever. You don’t get a pass for being a jerk but trying to make it sound like the other person has issues or is overly sensitive. I call bullshit. And it’s a total abuse of what therapy is all about. Therapy (and it’s philosophies) are meant to help people heal. They are meant to help relationships heal, not drive wedges between them. It’s a therapist’s job to help communicate that message clearly to their clients.

I remember once years ago when I had a client come in who couldn’t wait to proudly tell me how she had told her mother off. She thought she was taking my advice and practicing self-care and assertiveness. I had to completely back pedal with her and clarify what I meant. I was horrified that she thought I would have approved of the way she had run another human being over with her words.

So as a therapist, let me be clear. Of course people are responsible for their own reactions. But if you even slightly give a damn about others, you are also responsible to try NOT to hurt other people. There is no legitimate therapy in the world that would support someone being harsh and attacking to others. None. Hope I’ve been clear about that.


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It’s Official: Customer Service is Dead

We all need vacations or getaways to stay refreshed and keep perspective. I remember after Tim died, two of my friends took me away for a night. We went to Skaneateles and did a spa day. It was just what the doctor ordered.

If I ever needed a break, it has been in the last couple of months. My vacation to Virginia Beach fell through which was like the straw that broke the camel’s back. Except, just when you think you can’t take anymore, something else happens…

My consolation prize was a night away in Lewiston, NY at the Barton Hill Hotel. It’s not the beach, but I figured it would at least give me a breath of much-needed fresh air. The package came with a massage. I ordered the groupon deal after calling the hotel to be sure it had the services we wanted. Then came the first blow. After purchasing it, I called to make the massage appointment. Oops. No appointments available until after we check out of the hotel. Yes, you read it right. I checked with them before I purchased the thing. But you know how it is. The hotel desk is a few feet away from the spa desk. They can’t possibly actually know what they are talking about, even being in the computer age.

I’m a reasonable woman though, right? So they said they would give us late checkout so there would be no issue with getting the massage, being able to shower and then leave the hotel. It wasn’t the best, but it was a pretty close second. I got through the beginning of an exceptionally tough week (more serious issues than the norm like suicide and rape) by counting down the days til my getaway.

Here’s the short version of what happened.

Check in at hotel. Drag all your stuff up to the room, only to find the keys don’t work.
Drag all your stuff back down to the lobby and wait for new keys to be programmed.
Get to the room, discover the clock/radio doesn’t work. No music. It gets replaced.
It takes FOUR trips to the lobby to actually get the towels that were requested.

MOST DISTRESSING ISSUE OF ALL: the door to the room doesn’t even actually lock. It can be pushed open. All our stuff is in there and we are leaving for the day. Back to the lobby AGAIN. We are told that it is a humidity problem (which we suspect isn’t true) but are told they will check on it immediately. When returning to the room after dark, of course our door still was open. Luckily, nothing was stolen.

Now I have to admit to myself that I guess I’m not a reasonable woman after all. I mean, who expects their hotel room to actually be secure? Most places you go to, even the shadiest of motels, don’t have a locked door. That is just too crazy of a thing to hope for when you travel. Right?

After traveling to a different floor for ice buckets and ice (because they are not easily accessible), I wake up in the morning to discover the bucket had leaked all over. My cell phone was laying in a pool of water. Nice.

But hey, look at the bright side. We go for our complimentary breakfast on the terrace at this “beautiful” inn (that is if you don’t mind all the water damaged ceilings and other run-down aspects) and are pleased to find that it consisted basically of cereal and toast. I’ve stayed at cheap motels with better breakfasts than that.

The kicker? We go for a walk in the morning and decide to just double-check on the arrangements for our late check out time. Even though this was literally the FOURTH conversation I have had with the staff about this, suddenly there is a huge problem. They are booked for the weekend so they can’t possibly accommodate us. In fact, it appeared from the looks on their faces, that we were crazy for even thinking that was a possibility. Check out time is literally in the middle of the massage time and that is too bad for us.

A manager? I want to speak to a manager? Silly me. There is none on the premises. Of course not. Literally every employee we talked to looked like they were in high school or barely graduated. No idea how to handle a business, much less one fraught with problems.

In disgust, the massages were canceled and we checked out EARLY.

Now, everyone is allowed to make mistakes. I make enough of my own so I try to be gracious to others. But what I can’t stand, is when a person(s) doesn’t take responsibility for it.

After countless phone calls, emails, and other such follow-up, here is what happened:

Nothing.

The hotel offered a free night. Are you kidding me? I’m no dummy. That doesn’t cost them a cent. I kindly explained that we have no desire whatsoever to ever set foot in the place again. I want my money back. I work freaking hard to be able to afford a getaway. I needed to be refreshed and instead I paid for a stress-filled 24 hours. So the hotel says, sorry. We would love to give you your money back, but the deal was through groupon so their hands are tied (which is also a lie, but I’m willing to work with it).

Groupon? I could have fell over when they told me that… guess what? The hotel refused to allow them to give me a refund. So they gave me money off my NEXT groupon purchase. Not much better than the hotel offering a free night. I WANT MY MONEY BACK, or at least a portion of it. Disgusting. Like I want to purchase another groupon offer in the near future.

I shouldn’t be surprised. The old me would have shrugged my shoulders and made the most of it. The new me isn’t wired that way anymore. I’m pissed off and can’t seem to help it. I needed to do something for ME after exhausting so much energy day after day helping other people. I just want what I paid for. Is that so crazy?

So it is official. The age of the consumer is no more. I’ve already wasted enough energy on this. The Better Business Bureau lists complains similar to mine. In the end, the hotel just refuses to do what’s right, so what’s the point?

Anyhow, I’m trying to find something clever and funny to end with. My creativity seems to be lacking. Must be because of the lack of soul refreshing that was sought after and not found…lol.

Moral of the story? GO TO VIRGINIA BEACH!!