After spending the better part of the past decade in pursuit of the credentials to be an Art Therapist, now that I am closing in on the goal I find myself loosing faith in the whole notion of therapy. Well, not therapy itself, because I know it can be a powerful tool for change; nor do I doubt the potential people have to change, grow and evolve. But heres the thing: in my experience, they just don't want to.
We all develop defense and coping mechanism that, almost invariably, turn against us. We have all seen it, in our own lives and in others: we all know people who grew up being hassled by bullies and thugs, and are still doing battle with them today ~except, the perpetrators are decades gone. Today the innocent folks who trip their hair triggers are mystified and confused by their defensiveness. Far from protection, this pattern of behavior serves to alienate potential allies and friends. I know so many people who, rather than seeking to evolve, insist that others except them exactly as they are, anger issues and all. They want everyone else to change, so that they dont have to. I have been such a person. This seems to be the possition taken by the majority of folk. Like the man I know who is so scared and debilitated by being abandoned, first by his mother and then by a girlfriend, that he is unable to commit to any woman. He makes any woman who wants that commitment feel wrong. These issues are by no means insurmountable ~unless one refuses to change; and that is what most people choose to do.
Far be it from me to foist transformation on anybody. Though I believe that humans are not only capable of change, but that these transformations are an essential part of what makes us human, I am not interested in forcing anybody to be fully human. I don't want to play the heavy, and I don't want to be useless. There is precious little I can imagine worse than being useless ~being a serial killer perhaps, or a fascist, but not much else. My skills as a therapist would seem to be exactly that. The cure only helps if you take it.
Into this tangle of darkness and doubt, a fair-haired young man ~or he was a young man~ has appeared, like a beacon. He is not a young man now, but he was, and a wild one at that. He was the Kurt Cobain of my high school, our very own Drug Store Cowboy; the boy most likely to crash and burn, a boy who had experienced more tragedy and loss in the first decade and a half of his life than most people experience in a lifetime. He was a boy who struck fear and sadness in the hearts of the staff, not because they feared him, but they were afraid for him; as he was hell bent and single-minded on his path to self-destruction. There was literally every reason in the book for him to fail, and no reasonable hope of him living to adulthood.
But live he did. He lived, he grew up, he spent time in the desert. I don't know if he got therapy, art or otherwise, but I do know that he chose transformation, and in doing so chose life.
Twenty years after high school, through a strange and complicated series of events, he and I found ourselves in a local coffee shop, with our kids. The out of control 'bad boy' who used to bring orange juice laced with vodka (given the relative proportions, one might better describe it as vodka laced with orange juice) to school, now cradled his youngest son in his lap, with an tenderness and presence that nearly moved me to tears. While his older son played Yu-gi-oh cards with my son, we caught each other up on the past two decades.
He is happily married; he is in collage, and almost as passionate about his studies as he is about his family. He could have insisted that the rest of the world work around his issues and change to accommodate his wounds, but, if he had, he wouldnt have this amazing life, and he and I wouldn't have been sitting in that coffee shop, sharing insights about school, parenting, and creating one's best life. He has owned, and changed, his “stuff”; and in doing so has found wholeness and happiness in this personal transformation. I believe doing so has saved his life.
If it could happen once, in a life as unlikely as his, it could happen again, and next time I want to be there when it does.