In my private practice, I hear all the dirty things. The running joke is that the things I talk about at my work are the things that get other people sent to HR where they work. My rules for what is acceptable behavior in the bedroom is a simple one. CONSENT. So kids and pets are a deal breaker – they can’t give consent. Forcing your will on someone else is never OK (Unless it is part of previously consented to edge play with boundaries and safe words and all that jazz. Which is an article for a different day). Anything else you do? Get ooooonnnnnn with your bad self. People come to me seeking permission to be who they are. To figure out who they are. To explore how they came to be that way. To think about what they might like. To try new stuff on.
So yeah, sometimes we talk about some kinky stuff.
Though it is usually not as weird and kinky and unusual as people think it is. Trust me on that part, I’m a professional perv. I have never, not ever, been appalled by what people do in the bedroom. And I’m certainly not going to be shocked or surprised by it. In fact, I usually have a pretty good guess as to what is going on from the earliest things they say to me, their body language, their interactions with me and each other. I’m not Counselor Troi, but I was trained by (and continue to train with) amazing people. It’s my job and I’m pretty good at it.
So if someone tells me about an abuse history, or struggles with sexual expression, or fights over differential desires? I’m not surprised. And these issues are not as unique as people think. If they were, I wouldn’t have a job, right?
But my clients still surprise me every day. In fact they take my breath away.
Do you know what DOES surprise me? In fact, what impresses me beyond measure? How wonderful people really are. How much families love each other despite obstacles that seem insurmountable. How hard people are willing to fight to heal. The lengths to which people will go to find the common ground that lets them be with one another. Or the grace and strength it takes to let each other go. The courage it takes to walk into my office and say, this is broken but I desperately want to fix it. To say I really screwed this up. I don’t know that I can make this better but I really want to try. To say I’m hurt so bad I can barely breathe but I want to move past this because I chose this person in my life and despite everything that happened I woke up this morning and chose them again. To sit in my office and cry and breathe and think and work. To make difficult choices. To sign with relief when things move forward.
People are amazing. They bust their butts in sessions and between sessions. And then they thank me when things are better.
But I didn’t do it. My only job is to provide the safe space. To validate their experience. To commiserate when it sucks and help celebrate when it’s awesome.
My job is to be the permission giver, the coach, the cheerleader, the non-judgmental ear. My clients do the work. Really difficult uncomfortable work, sometimes. Fun and silly work, sometimes. But out of the comfort zone work all the time. Because intimacy is not something we teach and normalize in our society. Figuring out intimacy is really hard stuff.
So this is a love letter to my clients. And a thank you right back. You inspire ME. You give me hope for the world around me when I see terrible things happen. You remind me of the huge capacity humans have to love each other, take care of each other, and recovery from the terrible things we sometimes inflict on each other. You remind me that we are capable of caring about each other beyond measure and reason. When we heal our relationships, we heal the world around us. Thank you for the constant reminder that the world is a good, good place full of good, good people. That the things we sometimes do don’t have to define us or our futures.
Thank you for inviting me into your lives and your journey.