We really took a hit with that writer's strike. Three months of no Desperate. No Boston Legal. Let's not let this happen again. Please.
Warning: Although I only reveal one subplot, the following post might be a spoiler if you haven't seen the April 13, 2008 episode of Desperate Housewives.
As soon as I saw the listing in TV guide this morning I emailed all my kids between patients to tell them Desperate would be on tonight. I inserted this announcement in a thread FD started about all the topics we can't talk about at the Passover seder. Only Empath Daught cared in the least bit about my show.
"We'll talk tomorrow!" she said.
Did I tell you that I shlepped the exercycle up from the basement so that I could watch cable and fake a little cardiovascular at the same time? It's a compact little thing that my significant other lifted from someone's basement for fifty dollars, but it weighs a ton. He couldn't believe I got it upstairs myself, having sworn off furniture years ago.
This is what happens when that ant gets going at the rubber tree plant.
Anyway, a few years ago I had a patient who experienced an Aha spirituality moment. Spirituality is a big thing in mental health. I think I wrote in a previous post that the HMO's ask therapists to check off ten or so "specialties" for referrals and that spirituality is on a list of about thirty "areas of interest."
At the time I saw way too many patients for my own health and didn't turn down many HMO panels. This is probably the default reason therapists get cranky, too many patients, too much stress. And to merit too many patients and too much stress, one fills out managed care applications and checks off specialties like, spirituality.
Being kind of religious person, I thought maybe I should check that, since I felt that I could empathize with anyone who used the Higher Power coping strategy thing.
Except on occasion I'd get a call like this:
You're a Christian therapist, right?Click.
This made me feel bad, especially since I really like people no matter their race, color, creed, etc., assuming they're not into terrorism or any kind of violent belief system, and yes, I have reservations about taking patients who believe in incest, statutory rape, bigamy, polygamy, and the like.
What's good about being religious, however, is that when a patient wants to talk about spirituality, or his or her concept of the Old Mighty, I'm not afraid of the discussion. In fact I'm totally open to all of it: atheism, agnosticism, as well as a belief in something out there. I'll even tip my hat to aliens, and have.
How DID we ever get on this subject, anyway?
Oh yes. What I wanted to put out here is an Aha moment, a patient's Aha moment. (all identifying details are changed, of course, as always)
Our unidentified patient obsessed about relationships, not unlike many of us. She obsessed about her boyfriends, she obsessed about her mother. She obsessed about her children and her neighbors, the clerks at Nordstrom, even the people she typed for at the office.
Then one day, in the throes of depression, she sat in a chair totally wrecked with despair. She talked out loud to what she thought of as the Old Mighty (what my grandfather, not terribly familiar with English, called Him or Her). She talked to her Higher Power and she cried. She prayed and talked, discussed and argued with her Maker. Would it be so terrible, she asked, if.. . Would it spoil, some vast eternal plan?
Sure, she was Jewish. We do this, argue, try to reason on occasion.
When all of a sudden she had that Aha moment. As she tells it, "All my life I've been wasting my time obsessing about people, thinking what I want to tell them, worrying about what they'll think of me! I should really be talking to Him! I get nowhere with people, and when I talk to Him, not only do I feel He's listening, but it's possible, certainly, that He'll answer. And no one else does, honestly. There's nothing to lose. It's a win-win!"
Do I plug assertiveness training or social skills at this point? What would you do?
It is a tough call. But of course not. What she's talking about is a major coping strategy, one that millions of people use every day. They are believers. They have, at least in their minds, a relationship with their Big Guy/Gal.
So of course, all I do is raise an eyebrow and smile. Whereas, it could be a You go girl moment for another therapydoc. But I'd never say that. These are moments in therapy where the support is all in the look, the understanding, the empathy, it's all in the eye contact. Words pale.
Oh, you want to know what happened on Desperate Housewives. Well, Lynette has an Aha moment in tonight's show. It's Sunday morning and she's watching as her neighbors pile their families into their automobiles, all dressed up, going to church. She's the staunch non-believer in the community, has never had any formal religious education.
And she's married to a Catholic and has a bunch of children, so she's thinking maybe they should go to church. She watches her friends going off to pray and she makes a decision.
"We're going to church," she tells her husband. He fights it but she wins in the end when her son says, "Sure I know who Jesus is. He helps Santa Claus."
But which church? She relies upon Bree's church initially since Bree is the most religious of her friends. It's obvious that Bree has made it through some serious problems and she credits that resilience to her faith.
At the Presbyterian church, Lynette, unfamiliar with the formal culture, raises her hand and asks a question, something you just don't do in a Presbyterian house of worship, apparently. The minister is truly surprised, but patiently answers Lynette's questions. Bree is mortified. "You don't do that here," she whispers to her friend, desperately trying to get her to stop interrupting the service and asking the minister questions. Everyone just wants to get out of there, apparently.
Lynette continues peppering the minister in front of the congregation and Bree is dying of embarrassment. Later Bree tells Lynette, "We just don't do that in our church, ask questions of the minister."
"Huh?" Lynette asks. "I thought religion was for answering questions."
"Well, yes, but we wait for the minister to answer them in his sermons. We don't ask him anything. We hope that he'll get to answering everything eventually." Then Bree does the unthinkable, she intimates somehow that Lynette embarrassed her. Lynette gets upset and decides her family will go to the Catholic church down the street.
The next week the Presbyterian minister asks Bree, Where is your nice new friend? He's so happy she came to their church. He thanks Bree for introducing the Scavos to him, for bringing them to church.
"But she asked questions!" Bree objects, seeing the error of her ways, regretting sending Lynette away. "I thought the church is about answers, not questions!"
He corrects her, "Of course it's about questions. It's more about the questions than answers. First the questions."
You'd think he's a Jew.
Bree hurries over to the Catholic church. "You must come back, Lynette! I miss you! Please. Please leave this place and come with me to my church." Lynette doesn't fall for it.
Bree persists, "Please, let's talk outside."
They go outside to talk and Lynette tearfully confides to Bree, "I've been through cancer and a tornado and I've survived both of them. I need to know why!"
Bree gets it. Lynette isn't going to church because she feels she has to go, like everyone else. She's going because she wants to go. She's looking for answers. "Why didn't you talk to me? I had no idea. Of course you're right. Faith shouldn't be blind. We should question things. I want you to have faith, and I want you to have faith in our friendship, too."
So they make up, and I'm happy, because I hate to see friends fighting. And Lynette, bottom line, does trust her friend and they talk about the ideas of faith as the camera fades to the next scene about Susan catching her cousin in bed with. . .
Those Aha moments are really fantastic, you know. I'm pretty sure they're all about slowing it down, stepping outside of our lives and reexamining what we're doing, how we're doing it, and thinking, I should change. And the funny thing is, that although those moments surely happen in therapy, and we do speed them along, we really do, there's no reason they can't happen at home.
copyright 2008, therapydoc