“Let me tell you, doc,” Alan rumbles, his deep voice emanating from somewhere down below. “Let me tell you. I’m sixty seven years old.”
“That’s true. You most definitely are.” We’d had similar conversations over our time together in sessions.
“It’s funny to think about it. I’m sixty seven. I spent my life being afraid of roller coasters, ya know?” He looks at me to make sure I’m still following him. I’m still there. “Mom said to be careful, so I was. Being afraid makes you careful. Being careful makes you good.”
“You felt you had to be good, and that was the way to do it.”
“Yup.” He nods emphatically. “I was the best. Got good grades. Got good, stable jobs. Got the good girl, from the right family. Twice, I got the good girl. See how well that worked out, right?” His eyes narrow for a moment. “See, I had to be. Otherwise, I’m not being good, and then where would I be?”
Alan’s self-awareness has been something to behold even before he showed up in session. It’s only become more impressive since we’ve started working together. “You needed to be good, otherwise. . . Well, what would it be like if you weren’t?”
“See, that’s the thing. I was never sure what would happen if I didn’t stay on the straight and narrow. My folks were like that, growing up. Had to stay away from the things that were dangerous, or hard. Stay on the safe side of things.”
“Taking risks is dangerous.”
“Yeah, that’s what I learned. Stay safe. Don’t do things that rock the boat, don’t make trouble for other folks, because that’s trouble for you in the end.” His voice softens, becoming almost wistful. “And then I think of all the things I could have done. Could have gone on the roller coaster. Could’ve made the bank a hundred times. Could’ve bought the thing, for all I know. If not for the staying safe bit.
“What if I was wrong?”
Alan is not a real person. Nice guy, with great self-awareness. At the end of the day, though, he’s a made-up character. You, presumably, are a human being. You’ve got your wants, your fears, and, maybe most importantly, your perspective. You’ve got the way your experience has told you is a safe and functional way to see the world.
What if you’re wrong?
There’s a better way. Care to find out?
Originally published December 24th, 2020, on my blog at yeshayakrauslcsw.wordpress.com.