Reality Therapist
27 March 2007

Taking the train into work this morning, a pretty blond girl caught my eye (hey, I'm a bloke). She was wearing a white tunic with the words 'Beauty Therapist' written on it. Somehow I misread it as 'Reality Therapist' and that set me thinking ... 'Wouldn't it be wonderful to find a Reality Therapist!' ... and (next thought) ... 'But what would they do?'

The words of TS Elliot came to mind: 'humankind cannot bear very much reality'. Would a Reality Therapist relieve our suffering by cocooning us in a delightful delusion? Come to think of it – that is what TV does most of the time – even so-called 'reality TV'. I suspect this is not the answer – even that it is the road to madness. Reality may be painful – but our attempts to escape it can be worse. Let me tell you a story ...

The weekend before last I went on a Journey retreat. At one point we were asked to break into pairs for a short exercise, and I found myself in a row where the people on either side of me paired off with the person on the other side, leaving me without a partner. I noticed a man a few seats down without a partner and asked if he would like to pair with me. He turned and said, 'Actually I'd rather not'.

At that point I felt, internally, that I had been slapped. I found another partner and went on with the exercises, but inside I was telling myself all kinds of stories... that there must be something wrong with me ... that the secret shame I have always carried must somehow be visible to others ... that the person who had 'rejected me' is an enemy ... that he must be very selfish and self-centred to behave in this way.

Fortunately, this was a weekend about raising awareness and getting free of some of this bullshit, so after a couple of hours I caught myself telling these stories and began to ask 'Whoa, where is all this coming from?' and I started to face the fact that none of these stories are real but are things I told myself to make sense of life when I was a toddler – and they are stories I have carried with me ever since.

The following day I was walking along the beach and saw the man who had 'rejected' me walking in the opposite direction. He approached me and apologised for what had happened, saying that it was all about his internal crap that he was in the middle of facing. I was able to genuinely give him heartfelt thanks and explain that what happened was perfect because it had brought up stuff in me that I needed to face.

I think that this is what I will call 'Reality Therapy'.

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