Friday, February 19, 2010

Appreciations (20) … Hopeful helping

Appreciations (20) … Hopeful helping
Torrey Orton
Feb 19, 2010
"Plan for the worst and hope for the best…"
Presenter at Transition Decade 2010 launch
at Melbourne Town Hall, Feb. 14, 2010

Rising hope…anticipations of hurdles jumped

My work is doable because I can approach anyone (so far!) with a view to their potential for personal development. I look for and find that potential, usually through an undergrowth of blockages and false directions which make the potential and pathways to it inaccessible to themselves, and others. I understand this attitude, and its behavioural expression, as what Carl Rogers called unconditional positive regard.

It seems so far, too, that everyone who comes within my therapeutic reach intends to develop for comprehensible reasons. This is not always true in group settings, where the participants may be present because the management has dragooned them (for comprehensible reasons, again, but…not the individuals'). Their development intentions cannot always be revealed with confidence that they won't be used against them in some perceived breach of organisational values – explicit or, more dangerous, implicit ones!

My hope has an inner directed aspect, too. To be hopeful for others I have to be hopeful about myself being able to help. Apart from my natural risk fascination (if there's a challenge in a domain of my competences, I'll bite on it.), therapy, and many other learning settings, repeatedly present opportunities to discover that I do not know what I am doing for one specific person or group. I fail to connect or sustain.

It could be that hope is a variant of optimism, or nestles in the same family. I don't think of them together because I am not optimistic in the usual sense of the term. Where I am not in control, I check the dangers first. Perhaps we all do so, some more knowingly than others. Certainly the constant drumming of the 'don't be negative' acolytes of positive psychology reminds me of my position on the other side of a somewhat temperamental divide.

Challenged, wavering, and rejuvenated hope….scraping knees learning to walk

My hope is challenged and wavers as novelties of personality, history and self-construction arise unexpectedly in my work. These require a personal response – most notably where the therapy / learning has not developed far enough to have shared intent and frameworks sufficiently in view of all participants. Our tasks, objectives and bonds are still under construction.

In fact, a special hope jag is often necessary for me to step up or back from a present novelty, those moments when I have to design interaction on the run. This is akin to the role of faith in taking action towards a novel future (an unpredictable one) which I discussed a few posts back. My underlying competence is intuitive creation of appropriate action options, which generally take 2-3 minutes if I am really puzzled by a significant deviation in the path we had been pursuing. If I miss the need to reframe or reshape the process, it can stumble along for some sessions. There may be a series of such phases in the total process.

Waning, fading hope…a life process running down

There comes a time in some therapy where we are not getting anywhere. This time is often forewarned by repeated events of stillness settling on the process. It not the kind which arises in meditation or some flow experiences. Rather, there is an energy gap or attention lapse. The language content and focus fades. Boredom is about to jump up. Disconnection is in the room, with disengagement threatening in the doorway of awareness. There are two pathways at this time – one of wasting decline and the other of conclusive achievement.

Withdrawing hope…the premature end

Time to stop, when the end has not been reached, often arrives in interruptions of the preceding routines – routines of times and procedures. Patient clients come late, miss sessions and I look forward to the sessions with declining energy. It can take a session or some months of them to unroll.

Or, confirming hope...the agreed closure

I often say to patient clients that they will know when they have finished our time together, know when they are well, or better or improved to the level they need. They will take charge of hope in the room by increasingly commanding the direction, depth and intensity of sessions. They will be checking the coverage of their various agendas and looking forward to support systems (internal and external) to sustain their achievements. They will know that they will be challenged again in the areas and ways that brought them to therapy in the first place. The task of primary hoper is theirs, and that of their social worlds.

I imagine that these phases / stages are something like what we will encounter repeatedly over the life of the climate change struggle. Perhaps many participants from many perspectives will do so, and this may be a potential common ground to be built on!!

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