Monday through Friday, I get to play God. That is my job–in a manner of speaking. As a Behavior Analyst, I am counted successful when my clients do as they are told. “Sit down,” “Tell mom,” “Put your shoes on,” “Write your name,” “Keep your underwear on.” If my clients don’t do as I ask, I have to “help” them complete their tasks. I train the Instructors on my team in the art of Tough Love. They have to show the clients they care about them, but will not stand for their bull shit.
Perhaps this is where my God complex arose. (Note: these statements have not been evaluated by any Behavior Analyst governing body.) My salary, my success, and thus my worth are tied to how well I can exert CONTROL. The beautiful seven-letter C-word.
Yesterday, one of my most aggressive and manipulative clients brought me tears of joy. We sat at his Clinical Team Meeting, evaluating his incredible progress, when his Instructor showed me some of his work. He had written out the steps to completing his homework (as part of the Executive Functioning curriculum of Sequencing), and the last step read, “I sit with quiet hands.” That’s a key term we in the field use to bring clients to a calm and coping state–better able to comply and less likely to throw something at my head. “I sit with quiet hands.”
The phrase took on a broader meaning, and I was swept into a metaphorical sea of meaning and God and symbolism and consequence.
Four months ago, something terrible happened. I’d only experienced watching it play out in TV shows and movies, yet after one life-changing moment, I was faced with experiencing it in real life–in my life, in real time.
I did what I thought best considering the drastic circumstance–called on the savage strength of my favorite female heroine. But I was unstable. I became radioactive, dangerous to my own touch and ideas of how to beat and control what I’d been told was my inevitable dissent into emotional monstrosity.
I tried everything different than what had previously existed in my normal life, channeling Scarlett O’Hara’s refusal to let Destiny plot her fate without her two cents.
But I did it wrong. What I used to accomplish with unflappable bravery was now desperate flailing gunshots. Attempts at control backfired because I wasn’t ready to think through my decisions–I simply acted. Hysteria loomed close, exhaustion held me in its grip even though I refused to sleep so I could control slipping into nightmares.
Finally, after far too long, Melanie Hamilton slapped Scarlett across the face and told her to shut up. She tied her hands behind her back, tied her shoes together, duct taped her to a chair and forced her to listen . . . to herself. Myself. My strength. My Self. The one who inherently knew what to do, the one who never fought against the tide but had always sat and listened to my inner awareness, the knowing that I had exactly what I needed to move my mountains. No more, no less.
I was reminded to sit, to sit with quiet hands.