Private and Public Spaces
A few years ago, I tried my hand at a fancy decorating technique in my master bathroom. I was going for deep red with vertical white lines, but my deep red bled through my painters’ tape. Rather than crisp white lines, I got an unfinished look.
The house has needed a lot of other work, and my wife and I stay pretty busy. This room has been left in this state for several years while we work on more public spaces. It has always bothered me just a little bit, but we haven’t been able to justify the time and expense to renovate a room only the two of us will ever see.
And this is the potential therapy client. Everything appears to be fine in their life, but some inner room needs some work. They can’t justify the time, expense, and discomfort to take care of a problem only they are aware of. They are reminded of it every day, live with the unsightliness of it, and are not motivated to do anything about it. There are more public spaces in all our lives that need attention.
Work, school, family, social groups. We need to keep up appearances, present a favorable face.
My bathroom has been defective for so long it doesn’t even occur to me anymore that something is wrong with it. I bathe and toilet blithely ignorant of the ugly, unfinished walls. Too, some of the jobs that need doing are a bit beyond my ability—replacing trim molding, cutting tile—so it pays to keep my head low and not mention my dissatisfaction with that little room.
Today I am going out to get supplies and cleaning out the room. It’s time to do that interior renovation. It is a little daunting. I will have to learn some things as I go. But the pain of looking at this ugly, unfinished room—what it says about me that I can live with it this way—is finally greater than the irritation at losing a day on the effort.
This, too, I think reflects the process of getting into therapy. People don’t have the skill they need and are ashamed they can’t take care of their problem alone. Eventually the person must feel shame at leaving their problem so long, and revealing this shame becomes another barrier to getting help.
Unlike my bathroom, though, these interior rooms are hard to hide. We may think we are clever, that nobody knows we are suffering inside. But we can’t fool anyone. It is as though that bad paint job was reflected on the exterior walls of my house—everyone can see there is something wrong. Not exactly what is wrong, but something. And trying to keep that interior room secret can be alienating, distancing.
Well, I’m off to buy my supplies. No sense putting off this private work any longer with this public reflection.
-- Jason Dias