Therapist Self-Care

“Hi, I’m Paul. I am a recovering overachiever.”

Richard Rohr says that there is one universal addiction–we are all addicted to our way of thinking.

I’ve met a lot of therapists who are overachievers.

Who are locked into their own way of thinking.

It takes a certain degree of drivenness to survive graduate school and make a vibrant career as a therapist.

Combine a competitive drive with a heavy dose of empathy, and you’ve got the ingredients for burnout.

After decades of pushing myself and being my harshest critic, I’m learning to let go and lighten up. One of my mantras for 2020 is, “Hey, lighten up.”

When I catch myself taking life or myself too seriously, I say to myself, “Hey Paul, lighten up.”

Dust and Breath

A couple of weeks ago, Christians all over the world recognized the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

The dictum “Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.” is often quoted as a cross of ashes is marked on the worshipper’s forehead.

Dust is the stuff of the earth. To be human is to have the ground of our being anchored in the physical realities of our world.

But notice in the Judeo-Christian creation story (Gen. 2:7) it is the divine breath that transforms dust into a living, human person.

Humans are connected to both heaven and earth. We are simultaneously dust and breath.

Our relationship with both must be maintained if we are to become fully alive.

Our lives as caregivers must honor both the spiritual and physical realities of our work. We can err by drifting towards one reality or the other.

Our egos want to hang onto something substantial and meaningful. It disdains anything that is here today and gone tomorrow.

Letting Go

The Christian mystic Hildegard von Bingen referred to herself as a feather on the breath of God.

We can have lightness such as this is only by letting go.

The next time you’re tempted to hunker down and be too full of yourself–my way of thinking, my opinions, or my patients need me. Remember, such egocentric thinking makes your load heavier and keeps you from soaring.

A spirituality that is vibrant and flowing will always ride upon the breath of God.

The next time you catch yourself ranting about insurance companies, your workload, or the injustices of the healthcare system, try saying to yourself,

“Hey, lighten up.”