Therapy by mistake

A credit card machine is my personal zombie apocalypse, combining the three things I fear most:  machinery, money, and the internet.  I'm not going into all the reasons for my fears here.  Let's just agree that these reasons are perfectly reasonable and valid.  My strategy for dealing with these issues has always been total avoidance.   (Note, I work in a profession that's about people and feelings, face-to-face.)  Let's agree also that avoidance is a perfectly reasonable and valid strategy.  Because therapy is about the client, and I'm telling you a story about therapy.  So let's just think about the client, shall we? So just to set the story up, I need to tell you that the other night I had a teensy-weensy meltdown at the credit card machine.  First, I swiped the card.  (And I think it would be good for us to notice that I did this part of the process competently.)  But then I keyed in a number that was $10 less than I was supposed to charge.  Naturally, I went straight on to "enter" without double-checking the amount.  As the machine was printing, I realized the mistake, explained, and apologized to the nice lady whose card I was swiping.  The nice lady very kindly signed the receipt, and I re-swiped her card for another charge to make up the $10.  This time I keyed in the number 1, and then somehow--zombie virus, I'm pretty sure, given my desperate need to find a brain--I hit enter instead of the rest of the zeroes I needed.  So instead of charging the client $10, I charged her 1 cent.  After that, I was afraid to swipe her card again, feeling sure the bank would come and arrest me for credit card fraud.  The nice lady mercifully offered to bring cash the next time, and I gratefully agreed that this might be a good idea for all involved.

So embarrassing.  Really, really not fun.

But here's the cool thing, about the therapy and the client.  The nice lady's son, my client, has some pretty serious social anxiety.  He feels like people are always watching him, waiting for him to make mistakes, and thinking he is stupid.  So right in front of my young client, I am making mistakes.  Not one mistake.  Two.  Clearly being incompetent with this machine/money/internet tool of the devil, which every adolescent working at a fast-food restaurant can run.

The next time he came for an appointment, we had a great conversation about my screw-up with the machine, how I was feeling at the time, what he was thinking at the time, and how this might relate to how he feels and thinks about his own screw-ups, real and imagined.  Helping a kid get out from under a paralyzing burden of anxiety and self-doubt is something for which I am totally willing to be embarrassed.

And here's a funny thing that happened to me while I was thinking about this therapy-by-mistake situation, and how to write about it for this blog.  I realized my previous blog was about the just one thing God asks me to give up, and I was waxing eloquent about how it's likely that God asks me to be less in control of every single dang thing, so that His power can get loose inside of this weak person and show up in far more powerful ways than my control could ever manufacture.

And that's about the time I encountered the credit card machine (which I've worked so hard to control, via avoidance) in such an embarrassing--and healing--way.

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