Are My Goals the Same As My Clients’?

I just finished watching “The People vs. O.J. Simpson.” Even though I remember much of what happened when the actual case was being tried, it was fun to see behind the scenes and see the individual human struggles taking place. It was very well acted and compelling.

I particularly liked the portrayal of prosecutor Marcia Clark. There was a moment at the end, after O.J. had been found not guilty and the prosecution team felt so defeated, that Marcia opened up and shared with her co-prosecutor Chris Darden a story about how she herself had been a victim of a violent crime. This experience, she felt, gave her great empathy for victims. It empowered her to fight hard to convict the bad guys.

Not only did she empathize with victims, she revealed, but also she desperately wanted justice for them. And she assumed that juries wanted justice for victims as well. This gave her something in common with juries, she felt, and that gave her strength. (Until the O.J. trial–that was the first time she frustratingly felt that the jury didn’t necessarily want justice for the victim as she did.)

Think about that for a moment… How can you win a case when the jury is more emotional than rational, and doesn’t necessarily want justice?

I’m writing about this because it’s intriguing, but also because, in a way, it reminds me of a situation I experienced with a client a few months ago.

I had gifted this client a half-hour reflexology session, which she experienced at the beginning of an hour massage–a 90 minute session all together.

A 90 minute session is pretty common–definitely within the realm of legitimate self-care and not an overindulgence. In fact, some people can barely relax in an hour, and truly need the extra time to get the full therapeutic benefit of bodywork.

But for some reason, this client was almost objecting to how good she felt. “I’m too old for this!” she cried as she began to “recover” from her session and get ready to move on with her day.

I was too shocked to even ask her WHY she resisted feeling wonderful and pain-free and relaxed. So I guess I’ll never know. Maybe it was simply hard for her to drive herself home and think about being even a little productive for the rest of the day.

But I think I made an assumption that people WANT to feel as good as they can. Maybe sometimes there’s an emotional aspect–something not rational–telling some of us that we don’t deserve it, or it’s somehow self-indulgent, too good to be true. Maybe sometimes there’s some deep-seeded, preconceived notion that would cause us to resist feeling incredibly good.

I always endeavor to help people feel as good as I can help them feel–physically relaxed and more mobile, and emotionally increasing that sense of wellbeing.

Maybe that is too intense for some people. Perhaps it’s best to never assume that people want what I think they “should” want, or that I have this ambitious goal in common with them.
I remember my reflexology instructor sharing a story about working on a client whose chief complaint was shoulder pain. But when asked “what are your goals for this session?” The client answered, “I want to learn how to relax.” It had little to do with shoulder pain. If an assumption had been made and the question had not been asked, the outcome of the session would almost certainly not have been as successful.

Marcia Clark was so discouraged, I believe she stopped practicing law. As for me, I think I’ll just try to stop making assumptions.

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Category : Blog Posted on April 20, 2016

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