Reflections of a Psychologist

“Have you ever caught fireflies in jar?” I would sometimes ask my patients. “Although these little love bugs wander round and round within their glass enclosure, they are hopeful and determined to find a way out. Some are logical enough to locate an air-hole big enough to squeeze through - though most perish due to children forgetting about them until they've dried up.”

The lightening bug scenario is a metaphor I use in sessions to explain that love is not something to be captured or conquered against its will. It has the right to grow and progress in order to build trust. If we trap something living, the idea of being set free is the only hope it has left. And who are we to play god?

But the idea of control has led so many to knock on my door. They cannot accept the wide margin of “what-ifs?”

And why do I have so many writers as clients? Journalists, bloggers, novelists and poets – why do they all choose to come see me? Granted – I do my job and listen to their personal tales, and then to their ideas of how life and relationships should be. But they make their living selling their ideas on love and life. I can’t help thinking how they're more schooled on romantic notions than I am.

How am I supposed to break down all of their great ideas of romance – like the ones written in classic novels – into something realistic? And what ever happened to all of those deep tragedies that centuries of readers swooned over? I'll tell you, they're collecting dust.

I’m sure that school students still have books pumped with romantic linguistics listed on their reading requirements for the semester. But do their young minds understand the build-ups described in the courtships? So much has changed since the old dramas were published.

In the past, when characters were introduced, their hopes and fears were widely acceptable. And when they whimsically fell in love – the reader followed along without hesitation. Readers did not feel compelled to lecture the characters on what love really was. It was pure, no matter what avenues were written.

Everything has become so complicated now. We have matured to the point where lust fades soon after it begins. Sarcasm has replaced sincerity. Progression and technology have corrupted us in the way that reality shows are the new soap opera. The spark of virginal innocence has diminished. The flame of heart-felt passion – extinguished.

I myself have never experienced the kind of exaggerated love printed on the pages in the great classics. Nor have my patients learned healthy closure to the non-happy endings to their partnerships. If they were happy, they probably wouldn’t need me as their psychologist.

And yet, day after day, people ask for my advice when it comes to their relationship chaos. I do my best to advocate an outcome of realism to them. I attempt to pose my words in ways that will not squash their idea of a pleasant final result. I confidently reinforce that new challenges are just a part of life. And if their current relationship happens to be ending, well – I remind them there is always hope to be found hidden at the bottom of a jar with little lights among the un-granted wishes.

-Lisa Beth

C. Feb 2014