Sometimes a patient will stop during a session, mid-sentence, look abashed, and say:
I must sound ridiculous. Here I am, prattling on about my problems. And there are so many people who have it so much worse than I do.
Gerald Lucas, a psychotherapist I studied with years ago, had a useful response he employed at those moments:
It’s true, some people do have it worse, but then some people have it better, too. So, please, keep talking.
The fact is we live in two different worlds at once: the first, in which our petty cares are the center of everything, and a second universe in which we realize our place as a tiny piece of a larger whole, unimaginably fortunate to have a roof above our heads, enough to eat and clean water to drink.
We’re used to accepting this split as an element of the human condition: it is the same existential dilemma we face in striving to achieve our dreams, fully aware that we are headed for the grave. At some level, our efforts on this Earth are as pointless and egocentric as the tombstones erected over our meager remains once we’re gone. It all ends in dust – just as it began.
The lesson here, if there is a lesson to be drawn from a tragedy like what’s happened in Haiti, is that life is an all-too-brief opportunity for joy, and it shouldn’t be wasted. So let’s try to keep a sense of perspective, even when our own challenges threaten to overwhelm us. Perhaps it isn’t asking too much to stop and locate the abundance in our lives, and share a bit with others in need.
A good way to support the Haitian relief effort is via The Clinton Foundation’s website. President Clinton is the UN Special Envoy to Haiti and has shown a long-standing dedication to addressing poverty and environmental degradation on the island.
Here’s the link: http://www.clintonfoundation.org/haitiearthquake/