The most challenging part of being a counselor is learning how to hide your emotions and opinions from your clients.
Under most normal circumstances it really is not all that difficult. But every once in a while, you get a client that really pushes your buttons.
For me, it is the client who acts like he or she knows it all.
It’s the client that, even after you’ve expressly warned him to not do something, goes ahead and does it anyway. And when the inevitable result comes to pass, the client then has the audacity to act completely surprised – all while putting the blame on somebody else.
Usually, I do what my training tells me to do which is to put aside my true emotion and try to help the individual on my couch to the best of my abilities.
But, for the life of me, I can’t seem to recall any clinical training that prepared me for what to do when your client is the United States of America.
So, I am going to wing it and make up my own rules for this one.
Here is the case study: The client is a nation where its citizens often wake up to a headline about some person who was arrested for plotting, or carrying out, a politically motivated terrorist attack.
The case objective is to get the client to see the role it is playing in creating the problem and to further inspire the client to take responsibility for its own behavior so it can stop repeating it in the future.
We’ve seen many such plots and actual attacks in recent years. Just this week we learned of a US Coast Guard Officer who was plotting to conduct a terrorist attack on several democratic politicians and media personalities.
I have been advising this client, for about four years now, that the weaponized rhetoric used by political campaigns and media are, in no small part, responsible for people being killed.
And yet, the client refuses to listen and adapt to a healthier pattern of behavior.
Even when the evidence is clear that this rhetoric is causing unhinged people to take the law and people’s safety into their own hands, we’ll hear a politician or media personality quickly forgive their own guilty behavior by proposing that it was some conspiracy perpetrated by the ‘other’ that is truly to blame. These people never want to so much as consider, let alone acknowledge, that their own actions may have played a roll in a tragic outcome.
It’s classic. The client continues to repeat bad behavior, always ready to put an unhappy – and predictable – result on the shoulders of the ‘other’.
The political environment is pushing already mentally unstable people past a line that they only straddled before. What was once a person who might get angry and rant about politics is now a person who has had their delusions and beliefs validated and internalized as a call to action to save the nation from its enemies.
Our political rhetoric is causing mentally unstable people into action. This is not a maybe nor a “most likely” explanation for violence.
It is a 100% fact.
So, how do we cure a patient who has shown no willingness or interest to actually face up to the problem?
I’ll answer that question with a question (I am, after all a therapist!)-
If a politician or pundit screams at a camera or seethes into a microphone, and nobody is there to see it or hear it, did they really say anything at all?