I've been thinking a lot about change this week. This is a word that is battered around the counseling community with endless repetition. What is change? How does it happen? Are humans really capable of change? Are societies capable of change? I've had a couple of really difficult counseling sessions with clients lately...the kinds of sessions that leave me despairing about the condition of the human race. I walk with my clients into wounds so deep that it seems like there can never be light at the end of the tunnel. Situations seem infinitely hopeless. Escape is impossible. It's my job to find hope, to have vision for a better future for my clients. So what happens when I don't see any hope? Do I revert to a simplistic method of behavioral counseling where I try to help them fix the crumbling blocks of their life by giving them a few helpful study tools without looking at the foundations that are giving way? If I help them to dig into those foundations, if we uncover what is festering below and we can't find a way to walk through it, then is there hope? In the unique confines of this culture and this place, I can't just tell my clients to leave, to walk away, to start fresh. I am forced to work within family systems that are untenable. Young people don't move out of their parents' homes. They stay and stay and stay. Here in Kuwait, there are still areas of the desert that are filled with landmines from the Gulf War. Many of those areas have been marked as dangerous...flags and signs denoting the fact that if you walk in that area, you might go boom. It happens on a regular basis...ooh, what's that funny looking rock? Boom. I feel like counseling in this context is like walking through a field of landmines. Careful step, shift your weight, see what happens. And so often it feels hopeless. Do the hours that I spend with my clients really make any difference?
In this part of the world, there is a high value placed on image. Look good, smile, everything is fine. Making sure that everyone thinks you're fine takes its toll...it's exhausting. And there comes a point where your body can't physically hold it in anymore...the tears start leaking out at the most inopportune times. The rage is unleashed. The depression takes hold. We all have problems...every human, every society. I'm not saying that these things are unique to this part of the world. But I often wonder if my counseling model holds true in this place. What works in the west doesn't always work here. Often, the counseling room is a place where someone is free to fall apart- to let the cracks in the armor sever. And we sit in the pain, in the wounds, in the anger. And we look at the ways we have been hurt. And over time, we heal and we begin to look at our own responsibility. We take ownership and begin to move toward a new model of relationships in this world. That works in the west...I've seen it work and I believe that it's a healthy godly model of counseling. But I'm not convinced that it works here. And so I go back to my first question- what is change? What is my vision for my clients? Where do I find hope for my clients? And I hold up the mirror and look at my self. And I feel the weight of life here. And I struggle with the culture and knowing when to accept, and when to fight back. What is different and what is just wrong. And sometimes I freeze in the midst of the field of landmines, losing my footing and just wanting to sit down and wait it out. Sometimes the struggle is just too much, too confusing, too hopeless. But for this moment in time, I am here. And I have the privilege of sitting with a young generation of people who are struggling and hurting. And so I look to the one who provides all hope, and I ask for wisdom, and for eyes to walk tall and straight and hopefully through the field of landmines.