It was more than 25 years ago, when I was still new in this counseling
business - a sixteen-year-old young man was brought by his parents to
see me one evening. Seeing him privately, I asked him why he was here.
In typical adolescent fashion he uttered “I dunno.”
I continued on the same track: “Well, your parents made this appointment,
and they’re spending some good money for me to see you. Why do you
think they brought you here?”
“I dunno - maybe for fighting in school.”
Finally I figured I’m getting somewhere! So I next asked what I
thought was a good therapist question: “So what’s the problem
with fighting in school?”
“How come it isn’t a problem?”
“Because I always win.”
At this point, my standard interview protocol had come to a screeching
halt. So, quickly shifting some internal gears, I decided to ask, “How
do you do that - always win?”
“No problem. I always get the other guy to fight
I immediately realized two things. First, that was a brilliant insight!
And second, I’m not sure what I could or should do to “fix”
such a situation. I think I saw him one more time, but don’t recall
that I had much to offer him - back then when I was still so young at
this business. In subsequent years thinking of him, I consider that his
life path could take him anywhere from a successful serial killer to a
United States Senator.
He came immediately to my mind six years ago with the
terrorist actions of September 11. How Bin Laden, or whatever minds were
running the show from over there, must have enjoyed our response!
In our own personal confusions, governmental minds were impelling us to
feel ‘cornered’ by our new “terrorist enemies”
- so that we came out “fighting crazy.” For example, remember
the crazy logic of “shock and awe?”
Now, six years later, the fog is finally beginning to
clear at a national level, and we are beginning to see that our “enemy”
has successfully used this “natural response” to
destroy us. The resurfacing of the term “quagmire” says it
well. We have gotten ourselves into a situation where because we “fought
crazy” now we can only lose. Characteristically there are
those who cannot face the reality of this “loss” - to our
economy, the heritage of our national wisdom and compassion, the esteem
of our higher honor even on the battlefield, and in a sense our “soul”
as a nation. At the same time we have so demonized that elusive “terrorist
enemy” that they have no more choice but to want to destroy us utterly.
As they cornered us to “fight crazy,” and we bought into it,
we have in turn cornered them to know only the desire for our destruction.
My father, an ardent pacifist all his days - which was
especially difficult during World War II - was also a man, who as a father,
never ‘cornered’ his children. He also, I now see in retrospect,
understood the seductive foolishness of "fighting crazy" - and
ordered his entire life around that wisdom. I wish he were still around,
and that there were ears to hear him.
But maybe my young client of a quarter century ago is still around, and
is using the wisdom he taught me in his adolescence, to bring a clarity
of wisdom to those ‘running the show’ these days. We need
his insight desperately.