I continue with my saga, about how some of my clients put others first, neglect their needs, and how this can affect their lives and emotions. One of my clients (who has given permission for me to use his example) came into my session looking distressed, with fresh scratches on his hands. He was saying how typical it was of him to get into this situation, with visible injuries. He related to me what had happened. During the school run, he saw a kitten in the middle of a busy road. His child and her friends saw it as well. His first reaction was to rescue the kitten, so he marched into the middle of the road and stopped an approaching lorry. The kitten was not cooperative and indicated with its claws and squeals that it was not happy about being forcibly rescued. The client ignored the signs of danger. He tried to move the kitten without putting himself at risk, but this was not successful. Then he noticed a thought that “all these people are waiting for me – the lorry driver, the children, their school, and other drivers.” His thought was that he was causing delay and inconvenience for all those people and this prompted him to scoop up the kitten in his bare hands, that resulting in the bleeding scratches. He knew that he would need a hospital visit for injections, but the thoughts that the kitten was in distress and people were waiting caused him to react in that way. Some might say it was altruistic, others not.
Looking at the pattern of this client, he has always been putting others first, helping when he had no capacity to do so, and stretching himself at work and with his family. He realised that he was spinning too many plates at the same time and started to lose control over his life. He had started to struggle with sleepless nights, with memory and concentration, and he had had to do ever more work in order to catch up with his workload. He would spend hours doing research, not only in relation to a specific topic but also into the broader picture. The thought that forced him to do that was “I want to prove to others that I am capable and confident in what I am doing”. Unfortunately, his mind could not take any more and he ended up being signed off work, and then he contacted me. The kitten incident had shown him, in a nutshell, the pattern that he had developed throughout his life and that had led him into a total collapse.
He is not the only one. We assume that we are limitless and we can take more and more, pushing our boundaries as society encourages us to do. Some might think that we have always been doing that and hence we have achieved what we have achieved. However, at certain moments our brains cannot take it anymore. What we could do easily when we were younger does not necessarily indicate what we are capable of doing now. The situation changes, we change and the world changes. Often we think “I should be able to do that as I’ve done it before”, but then self-criticism kicks in: “I am not good enough, I am incapable of performing simple tasks”. We judge ourselves, calling ourselves failures and losers. Subsequently, we push ourselves even harder and we ignore the first signs that our body and mind send us, like the kitten’s warning squeals. In daily life, we don’t want to admit that, perhaps, at this stage you just need to ask for help, to recharge your batteries and admit to yourself that you are vulnerable. Sometimes it takes a stranded kitten to wake us up to the pressures that circumstances foist upon us.