When I was a child, my parents would never allow me to “dislike” anything on my dinner plate before I’d tasted it. “You’re not allowed to say you don’t like it until after you taste it”, they would tell me. To my eight year old mind, sliced tomatoes looked like miniature versions of The Blob, and were just as frightening. Regardless, looks and imagination alone were not substance enough to proclaim a dislike; only the experience of tasting those tomatoes afforded me that luxury. When I finally ate a tomato, it was all for not. I love them to this day!
Experience is an important concept in life, especially, as some would argue, that our existence is nothing more than the sum of our experiences. Consider the old adage of learning to drive a car. Reading a book about driving is one thing, but usually it’s not until you get behind the the wheel that the true learning begins. Another idea would be finding a new store in an area of your town that you don’t often travel to. Your friends may offer directions and even landmarks to help orient you, but it’s not until after you’ve been there a few times, and maybe even got lost a few times, that finding the store become easier and easier. Even in your wrong turns there are lessons – go the other way next time. Dr. Harry Wachs talks about the value in experience in “owning” a concept versus a superficial understanding that may come through observation. Experience counts.
This idea rolls around in my head most days, that even in negative experiences there is value. Understanding what works and what doesn’t work, who can be trusted for honest advice, and who cannot. Although some experiences may be more pleasant, we learn from all of them. Maybe, we even grow a little each time.
This concept is one to remind ourselves of in Vision Therapy – daily in some cases. Recently, my skills in this area were put to the test.
The circumstances were similar to those we all have encountered in VT. Smart patient, very guarded against being “wrong”, not really willing to take a risk, and trying to save face at every turn. Every juncture we came to with parquetry included my patient stating “I knew that”, “that’s what I said”, or even, “that’s what I meant.” Both of us knowing full well none of those statements were accurate.
Protecting our own intelligence is important; it is the hallowed ground on which we stand among our friends, peers, and colleagues. Projecting that image of that intelligence probably even more so. Don’t believe me? Anyone willing to look stupid in front of a large group of people, please stand up.
As a therapist, managing these situations can be tough, but truly is a necessary job skill. Do you pause the activity and discuss the value of wrong answers with your patient? Do you decide to make notable errors yourself to demonstrate that such an occurrence doesn’t “hurt”? Do you encourage your patient to make mistakes just to show them they will not spontaneously combust? Do you say nothing and hope the patient discovers the value in errors on their own?
The proper path is a judgement call; yours and mine. No matter which direction you choose, remember that your patient’s current perception is the sacred ground on which their self confidence, emotional inner workings and self concept are built.
Please tread lightly.