Jan. 3rd, 2011

invisionary: "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.  When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist." (Communist _support)
This post was a long time in coming, and I honestly didn't expect the topic to come out in quite exact a form as it did.

My perspective is that of an aspiring lawyer and social worker, intending to specialize in family law and work with juvenile delinquents. I am aware of the nature of First World Problems and how in fact they do not rate on an absolute scale in comparison to people suffering physical hardships elsewhere. Indeed, when a person has reasonably secure physical safety and their basic needs met, they're doing better than a large percentage of people on the globe. This immediately goes away when someone steps into a therapist's office, though.

When someone goes to a therapist with clinically significant symptoms (meaning that the symptoms are causing major disruption in at least one area of life or moderate disruption in many) the fact that a problem is a First World Problem should be irrelevant to the clinician. What matters is that the client has a problem. Regardless of how it relates to a universal worldview their interest is in solving that problem. Therefore, the clinician's interest should be the same. In fact, the client may very well know that there are people out there that have it far worse than they do - and that knowledge actively makes the mental distress worse.

I think of a case in mass media recently about a family whose standard of living dropped drastically due to job losses. They had previously been accustomed to giving their children expensive electronics for Christmas and this year found themselves unable to. It caused strife in the household and really made everyone feel like crap. I read all kinds of derision from random commenters that they only wish they had a problem like that. How HARD must it BE to not be able to stick an iPAD in little Johnny's Christmas stocking! Actually, it is, and not just because of the disappointment he might get. It's a stark and shocking reminder than they cannot live like they used to and it hurts. It makes a person feel like a failure because they've had so much more success. While their problem might be a First World Problem in the most classic sense, it doesn't change the fact that it's rather heavily impacting everyone's life. A sanctimonious lecture about the True Meaning Of Christmas (tm) or "a good kick in the ass" will not fix that. The risk is that the onset of depression, completely understandable under the circumstances, could drive them further down. This is what a clinician's job is about.

So while I suspect that the Idol topic this week brought up many thoughts of cynicism and sarcasm, I ask you to temper these thoughts. Consider that no matter how trivial seeming they may be to the grand scheme of things, First World Problems are very real and meaningful to the people that have them, and simply telling them to get over themselves isn't going to change a thing. Respecting their problems as being important to them, helping them focus on the good, and when necessary reminding them of that good, stands a far better chance of actually solving such problems.

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invisionary: "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint.  When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a communist." (Default)
Invisible Revolutionary

December 2011

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