I legally have to preface this by saying that I am not a licensed “Psychologist”. However I do practice therapy with people. I am working toward getting my license in Marriage & Family Therapy. These are 10 things I have learned about people during my work.
1. People want to be appreciated- Everyone I have worked with all want to feel like they matter somehow. We have an urge to be recognized by others around us. It is almost as if people always subliminally ask me in session, “Do I matter?”
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”
2. People want to be validated/understood- This one took me awhile to internalize. A lot of clients often come in with a certain stated “problem”, but never really work with me to solve it. They seem to get more value out of the sessions when I validate or agree with their opinion on certain events. This is me saying to them, “You are right! You should have acted/behaved/felt that way!”
This is expressed as a law of communication state in the Pragmatics of Human Communication. People will continue to tell a story or point until they are punctuated. Notice this the next time you speak to someone.
3. We are scared of death- This may seem obvious, but most people don’t fully comprehend how it affects them day to day. A lot of what we do in life is a way to avoid our “Destined demise”. We write novels, have families and try to accomplish great feats in order to keep our name alive in history. Death anxiety really controls our lives as we age. Check out novels by Irvin Yalom to learn more.
4. We prefer to put responsibility on others rather than ourselves- One of our main “duties” in therapy is to teach the client to accept their role in their life. We often like to put blame on others for our current situations. Accepting full responsibility means that YOU and only YOU are the reason for why you act/think and feel that way you do in life. Once clients fully understand this concept, it is usually liberating for them.
“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”
5. We crave authenticity- We really appreciate the truth, even when it hurts. There have been many times where I thought being honest in session would create conflict with the client, but it ends up bringing us closer. Sometimes I even tell them that I am stuck and don’t know where to go with them and it is pissing me off. Clients usually respond to this by agreeing with me. When I am completely honest with clients, I tend to get a reciprocal effect. This brings us closer and builds more trust with the client and I.
6. Not everyone is all good or all bad- I have been surprised over and over by this one. The seemingly nicest people have done some horrific things in their past and some really “bad” people can show a positive side to them. I have learned that it is best to suspend judgment and assumptions when the client walks in the door. I let them tell me their story and I find out that it is often circumstance that leads to behavior. Not some innate (Good or Evil).
7. We are all looking for love/connection- This is a vital need for everyone. Some clients deny this, but overall I see how their lack of connection with others is negatively affecting their life. It is a basic human need to feel like we belong to something.
8. We all appreciate humor- We use humor to disarm tough situations and make light of them. Life is too short to be serious all of the time. I don’t find myself hilarious by any means, but when I attempt to be funny, clients appreciate the effort and usually laugh along. It makes them think, “Oh! This guy is human and I don’t have to put on a front. I can be myself around him.”
“A good laugh overcomes more difficulties and dissipates more dark clouds than any other one thing.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder
9. We are all unique- I think it is important to recognize the uniqueness in everyone. I recognize that people have their personal experiences and narratives that make them who they in front of me. When I can see that I am different from them, then I tend to see their needs more clearly. This helps me not to put my own agenda on what I think is best for them.
10. We are all the same- This is the most powerful concept I have noticed. Seeing the similarities in people helps me accept and love them for who they are. I recognize that I have the same needs as them and I am a person just like them. When I see myself in the person, I have more empathy for their struggle. Being able to put myself in their position makes the session flow much more smoothly. Clients recognize this feeling and say that it alone is the most ‘therapeutic’ and helpful thing in session.
“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” -Margaret Mead
To get a more accurate depiction about how a therapist thinks in their sessions with clients read On Being A Therapist by Jeffrey Kottler