the ear speaks

October 9, 2012

m’sorry, I’m not here to be your free drop-in counsellor. I’m usually happy- eager, even- to be a giant ear for the woes of mankind, but for you I’ll make the exception. I barely know you. What’s going on in my life is usually a complete mystery to you. And our only form of communication is limited to you contacting me in order to complain about how incredibly awful your life is. So I’m going to need some form of down payment in the near future if you intend to continue utilising this service, thanks.

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Feeling a little bit wry about all this.

I’m being harsh. I know. I don’t mind so very much, I suppose. And a lot of people use me as a drop-in counsellor, to a certain extent; they just don’t do it very often, so I mind less. And in the end, I’ve even done it myself to others. But I find it to be a very different thing from listening to people I care about, people who care about me. Those people? We have a relationship. We have a friendship, based on mutual esteem and games and underwear and stories and long hours of writing and terrible jokes and life spent living together, learning what it is to be human. Life in common. I care deeply about what happens to these people. They care deeply about what happens to me. This is good. This is what friendship is. I want to listen to these people. I want to help if I can, be there for them through it if I can’t. And they have done the same for me when I have needed it, over and over. I am intensely, immensely grateful for these people. I would not be here, or remotely near sane, without them. You know who you are. And if you don’t, then you should be slapped with- among other things- a numptical carp.*

On the other hand, the people who are only interested in having their own needs met? I am not so cool with this. I am not a fan of being seen as a giant ear with a mouth attached for the purposes of saying there, there and producing bathloads of sympathy like some giant overworked chocolate factory with a sugarcane field attached. I’m not sure where that simile came from but my point still stands. I can handle this once in a while, people who use me as a giant ear. I am happy to be a giant ear for you once every so often, particularly if I don’t see you much and I’ve caught you at a bad time. But if every single time we talk consists of you telling me your life is awful, repeatedly, with no desire on your part for advice, change, dialogue, conversation or anything other than a need for a suitable receptacle for your litany of recycled miseries-

I sympathise with you. It’s hard to be stuck in one place, and it’s hardest if the one place you’re stuck in is your head. It’s not fun and it’s not easy, and sometimes it does feel like your life is a litany of endless misery and a black hole of Complete and Total Suck. I honestly do sympathise. But I am not the right person to tell this to. Particularly since telling me all this will not help you, either, which is more important than the fact that being used this way irritates me mildly. Using me as an extension of the anxiety-voice cycle in your own head is not going to help you solve anything, learn anything, start healing or begin to grow at all, particularly if you don’t listen to any of the suggestions I make and merely begin rehashing the issue again in a different way, as if I haven’t said anything at all.

I don’t know how many times I’ve said this to how many different people, but this is what trained counsellors are for.

I say this to everyone. I’m aware that I may have a rather misplaced faith in authority figures- policemen, firemen, psychologists, doctors, dentists, whatever- but I believe that on the whole, people who have learned lots of ways to help you, actually know how to help you.

As opposed to, well, me. And I am not, and will not be for the foreseeable future (keeping in mind how remarkably short-sighted I am), a trained counsellor. I cannot help you the way you want to be helped. No, make that: I cannot help you the way you need to be helped, regardless of your wants. You are not helping yourself by using me as a giant bad-ideas conveyer-belt. You are not helping our vague sketch of a relationship. And it is not, in the end, going to make you feel better. It will only make you feel worse.

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now if I could say all that to the person this is directed to-

it would be a bit harsh, wouldn’t it.

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* also in this abbreviated edition of Things People Should Be Slapped With If They Aren’t Aware They’ve Contributed Significantly To My Continued Enjoyment Of Life are, among many other things, one partly-blue stair, a still-unreturned book of poetry by Allen Curnow, a copy of Kilmeny of the Orchard, a Fiction Family CD and a several text messages with the approximated message of good morning, beautiful! how’s your day going?. I owe my continued existence to a great many people and I am glad of every single one of them.
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