Her psychiatrist had prescribed medications to help her with the anxiety that had grown into a strong phobia. She had short-term disability benefits and supports from a job placement organization and she met with me for weekly therapy sessions, but nothing seemed to be helping.
I remember when she was told that the insurance company had found her an entry-level position in the office of an oil and gas company. They would top up the extremely low salary that she would earn there and were willing to set up a modified return to work plan to help her transition into it. She was skilled way beyond what was expected but this lady was petrified even to begin.
We worked on Cognitive-Behavioural techniques and relaxation therapy to help her consider the idea even showing up for her first scheduled workday. Well, with considerable support and encouragement she agreed to go into the job on a very restricted basis.
One day led to another day and another day. It was extremely difficult, but she was showing up and making progress.
When she came for sessions, she talked about her fears and the doubts that she harboured about her abilities to perform the duties that were in reality well below her skill set. One day she told me "The only way that I survive there is that I pretend you are living on my shoulder. I can hear your voice saying 'It's okay. Relax. You can do this'."
I was so surprised but decided that if this was going to work for her - then so be it.
Well, after a period of time, the senior administrator resigned, and my client had proved herself, so she was promoted. She told me that she continued to gain strength and courage from thinking that I lived on her shoulder and encouraged her every day.
Over the years, I have asked clients if they have a mentor or hero whose lives or words encourage them. How might their lives be different because of this?
I challenge couples to imagine that the person who they most respect will walk into the room when they are in an argument with their partner or child. How might their actions and words change because of this?
My father died in 1979 when I was in my mid-twenties but as strange as it may seem, I find that often I am closer to him now than when he was alive. If I have a decision to make, I think "What would dad do?" I use his example from decades ago to form my own thinking.
Who do you respect, admire, and use as a guidepost for your life? Do you have someone who influences you even when that person is not in the room with you? Do you have someone who lives on your shoulder to guide and encourage you?
If not, perhaps it is time to consider who you might adopt as your wise comforter.
Better than being alone and having to figure everything out by yourself!