going home 2017

[Going Home 2017] Intention

Other than my mom’s homemade food, family get-together, and Chinese New Year, I met up with quite a few friends from college this time. These are the friends whom I have lost the contact with them over the last 20 years due to my migration to the US. Thanks to the social media (facebook) and communication apps in Asia (LINE), I was able to connect with them again.

So, here is how the story started. When I was in college, I joined a volunteer group that was organized by a local Life Line Association. The members of this specific volunteer group were all the university students from the three universities in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The goal was to act on the role as a big brother/big sister to the troubled teen in the area.

So, I joined the group in the spring semester of my freshman year and never left until I graduated from college.

Now, 20 years later, my friends are doctors, teachers, and clinical psychologist. They complimented me for changing the major from Chinese to counseling and went on to get my PhD in MFT. They wondered if our volunteer group changed my career direction. I said, “No. Actually, I joined our volunteer group because I have always wanted to be a therapist.”

So, the story started when……

I was 16, a teenage girl feeling really depressed about my life. It was almost 30 years ago and the education system in Taiwan was hard. The minimum education required was 9th grade at that time. If you can’t pass the high school entrance exam, to either regular or vocation school, you were done with the opportunity of the education. I got into a reputable high school. Then, the only choice was getting into the college. The year when I took the College Entrance Exam, the acceptance rate for the Social Science field was 13%. So, as a high school student, I wasn’t sure if I could have a future if I didn’t get into the college. My family didn’t have the money to allow me to re-take the exam. I was under a lot of stress to get into a good college. More importantly, I was unhappy because I wasn’t a good enough student academically

I didn’t know what to do and who to talk to. Then, one day, when I was walking around the campus alone, a counselor spotted me and invited me to the counseling center.

I remembered the feeling: “someone actually listened to me.” I also remembered that decision I made at the end of my junior year in high school: “I want to be a counselor in the future to listen to all the teenagers who are sitting in the dark because no one listened to them.”

So, that was the beginning of my life……..

It wasn’t an easy journey because of many cultural, policy and regulation issues. Still, throughout the years, I never left this field. Even though my focus has shifted from teenager to adult population, and have expanded my focus from individual clients to the couples, I have never left the mental health field. Throughout the years, with the cultural bias of the mental illness and sexual abuse, with the license and policy regulations, I have encountered a lot of difficulties every day, both in Taiwan and the US. However, there was never a day I made the decision about my career with the consideration of “how much money I can make and how easy I can find a job.”

Why? I don’t have an answer. I guess I have always known this is my calling. Also, I have experienced the privilege of witnessing many clients working through their issues and walking out of their shadow. That probably rewarded me more than anything financially.

When I sat on the table with my friends, I realized how my intention has had the impact on my clinical work, especially the couple’s work. I always like to ask my clients: “what’s the first impression about each other?” and “what made you decide to move your relationship to the next level (dating exclusively, engaged, married, etc.)?” That intention, consciously or unconsciously, will have an impact on the course of your life.

For example, if your intention of getting married is because: “ I am afraid to be alone.” Is there a issue between you and your spouse about how much time spending together?

Another example, a very common one to hear from a lot of junior therapist-in-training, “I want to be a counselor because I want to help people.” So, you will find their frustration and fear tends to get very high when they didn’t see the “progress” in the clients or when the clients dropping out prematurely.

(Just in case you wondered, yes, I had gone through that period of time, too. However, my issue wasn’t about frustrated of the clients’ progress. My issue is afraid of letting clients go if they are not done talking. My intention was to “hear” the clients’ words…..so, go figure.)

How about you? Is there any intention or desire you wish for your career, life, and/or relationship? How has that intention played out in your life and/or relationship?

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