Well, we are well into the holiday season with Christmas only days away. Many stores are having sales and holding late hours to accommodate last minute shoppers. I am sure Santa, his elves, and his helpers are also working overtime as they gear up for the big gift delivery of 2012.
I neither work in retail nor am I employed by the North Pole, but my counseling doors have also remained opened this holiday season. In fact, I have had an influx of some of the most interesting clients. Some of these clients have agreed to allow me to share with you some of their therapeutic story. Please note that each client mentioned below has given me written consent to allow me to release confidential information regarding their presenting problems, diagnoses, and treatment.
1. The Grinch (How the Grinch Stole Christmas)
Presenting Problem: Anger, Resentment; Abnormally Fast-paced Growth of the Heart
The Grinch came to me a couple months ago with an interesting dilemma. Growing up he was tormented and bullied not only by his peers, but also many of the adults he was around. The reason for his persecution: the color of his skin. The Grinch was the ONLY green Who in Whoville. You see he wasn’t only part of the minority, he was the minority. In my entire counseling career, I’ve only had one other client in this situation; he goes by the name of Tigger. Being the only one of your kind makes for a difficult life. Thus, the Grinch had good reason to be angry; and angry he was. Over the years, he had come to terms with his anger. In a way, his anger and resentment toward the Who’s of Whoville had come to characterize him; and he was perfectly okay with that. Well, all that changed when a little girl by the name of Cindy Lou, who hadn’t even grown into her nose yet, was able to access a part of the Grinch’s small heart that he no longer thought was functional; the part of his heart that allowed him to feel – and feel he did.
The Grinch has since struggled with understanding his place in Whoville. He was having a hard time getting used to having a fully functioning heart. Additionally, the residents of Whoville were willing to accept him back into their community, but they still exercised a level of caution when interacting with the Grinch. The Grinch wondered if he’d ever be fully accepted among the Who’s of Whoville.
The Grinch and I are currently working diligently to help him readjust to his new role in life. I am encouraging the Grinch to start by building close meaningful relationships with those he is certain will be accepting of him (e.g., Cindy Lou Who and her family; Martha May Whovier) and then move on from there taking one small relational risk at a time. The Grinch is also diligently working hard at learning how to put aside his brutally honest ways and approach the community with a more vulnerable side. Lastly, he is discovering ways he can give back to the community.
We still have a long way to go in counseling, but he is slowly but surely inching his way toward accomplishing his goals. I must say, I am very excited to see what is to become of him.
2. Ebenezer Scrooge (A Christmas Carol)
Presenting Problem: Loneliness; grief & loss
Diagnoses: 296.32 (Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent, Moderate); V62.82 (Bereavement)
Strength(s): Business & Financial Planning
I have to admit. I was shocked when Mr. Scrooge walked through my doors. I was initially very intimidated as his reputation preceded him. Much like the Grinch, Mr. Scrooge had had a life-changing experience after he was visited by the ghost of his former friend and business partner, Jacob Marley. You all know the events the proceeded from there. Mr. Scrooge explained to me that he was extremely grateful for Marley’s and the three spirits’ visit, as his life was forever changed. However, what he didn’t expect was the flood of grief that emerged from recalling all he had lost over the course his life.
Mr. Scrooge exclaimed that he didn’t even know he was grieving until his newfound friend and business partner, Bob Cratchet, brought it to his attention after he found Mr. Scrooge in a pool of his own tears cradling the cane of Tiny Tim. Mr. Scrooge recalled that all he could think about during that time was the possibility of losing Tim to illness. He just didn’t know if he could bear another loss. After all, he had already lost the love of his life, his best friend and business partner, and the best part of his years to being a miserable miser.
If I could sum up Mr. Scrooge’s goals in one word, that word would be “healing.” Mr. Scrooge has lived a long life filled with loss and despair. Through counseling he has been working hard to preserve and honor the memories of the loved ones he has lost along the way. He expressed to me that he never thought he would enjoy scrapbooking like he has recently. He has already completed one scrapbook in honor of the late Jacob Marley, which now sits in a special display case at his office. The Cratchet family has served as a great support system for Mr. Scrooge, which has helped tremendously with his healing. However, one area he has really struggled with is learning to enjoy life again. Mr. Scrooge stated he feels guilty if he enjoys himself; after all, what kind of person decides to enjoy life after he has contributed to the suffering of so many innocent, hard working people? That said, not only is Mr. Scrooge working toward grieving his losses, he is also working toward forgiving himself.
3. Mr. Potter (It’s a Wonderful Life)
Presenting Problem: Selfishness; Power hungry
Diagnosis: 301.81 (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)
Strength(s): Business & Financial Planning
Henry F. Potter has been a difficult client since day one. He initially came to therapy because he needed a listening ear as he complained about his business competitor, George Bailey. He really didn’t desire counseling, but more of a sounding board. Mr. Potter had to resort to paying for a counselor to have someone to talk to as many of his friends and acquaintenances had disassociated themselves from him upon discovery of pending investigation concerning allocations that Mr. Potter stole $9,000 from Bailey Building and Loan. In fact, most of the community of Bedford Falls had committed to no longer do business with Mr. Potter at all.
I am struggling making headway with Mr. Potter as he believes that everyone else is the problem. It has been difficult convincing him that a life of kindness and generosity makes for a much more meaningful legacy.
4. Professor Hinkle (Frosty the Snowman)
Presenting Problem: Intense jealousy; Impulse control issues; Strong sense of entitlement.
Diagnoses: 312.32 (Kleptomania)
Strength: Desire to be a good man; Love for entertaining children via magic
Professor Hinkle is definitely a very interesting man. He loves his magic and he loves entertaining children with his magic tricks. Thus, when he stumbled upon a real magic hat; he just had to have it. After all, it would enhance his show; therefore, he’d put more smiles on the beautiful faces of the children in his audience. So you can imagine his surprise when it was a few children that stood in his way of acquiring this magic hat. After much diligence, it was his run-in with Santa Claus, the big man himself, which put his behavior in perspective.
The professor came to me to help him build his self-confidence and work on controlling his impulse to take things that didn't belong to him. Through this experience with Frosty’s magic hat, Professor Hinkle discovered that his obsession with the hat had to do with his own insecurity as a legitimate illusionist. In counseling, the professor has been working through these insecurities. Professor Hinkle stated he has realized that his self-worth has been wrapped up in what he does instead of who he is. He has since found value in himself as a husband, father, and friend.
5. Rudolph & Clarice (Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer)
Presenting Problem: Marital Conflict
Diagnosis: V61.10 (Partner-Relational Problem)
Strength(s): Cute & cuddly; Natural beacon of light; Intense love for each other
Have you ever wondered whatever came of Rudolph and Clarice? Well, it shouldn’t come as a shock that they got married; and like all married couples, they have endured their fair share of difficulties. Rudolph and Clarice showed up at my door with a great deal of insight into their relational problems as well as a strong drive to make the necessary changes in order to get their relationship back on the straight and narrow. It has been a pleasure working with them both.
As you know, like the Grinch, Rudolph faced lots of bullying for being different. Even Santa himself told Rudolph that having a nose the glowed red was not suitable for his reindeer team. Once it was discovered that Rudolph and his red nose could guide Santa’s sleigh through some the dreariest of weather, well, he became an overnight sensation. Clarice explained, “It has been a hard adjustment for the both of us.” Rudolph stated, “That’s right. This newfound fame hasn’t been easy. We want to get a handle on this before we make headlines and are associated with other young talented stars who rose to fame quickly but couldn’t handle it. I'm supposed to go down in history like Columbus, not like Brittany Spears or Lindsey Lohan.”
The holidays are especially difficult for this couple as Rudolph is constantly traveling. Not only does he often travel with Santa to meet and greet the good little boys and girls, but he also has several book signings, commercial spots, and cameos scheduled as early as the week of Thanksgiving. Clarice usually does not travel with him as her privacy is very important to her.
In counseling, this delightful couple is working on learning to effectively communicate and resolve conflicts, as well as, coming up with creative ways to emotionally connect and spend quality time with each other this busy holiday season. For instance, Rudolph and Clarice have decided to Skype once a day for at least 10 minutes a day when Rudolph is on the road. Rudolph and Clarice have been reading The Five Love Languages together. Rudolph has discovered that Clarice’s primary love language is “quality time;” and Clarice now knows that Rudolph’s primary love language is “words of affirmation.” They both are making much effort to show each other love in the ways that resonate with the other. They anticipate meeting their counseling goals by mid-January 2013.
6. Scut Farkus (A Christmas Story)
Presenting Problem: Anger; Acting out; Bullying
Diagnosis: 312.81 (Conduct Disorder)
Strength(s): Strong will for survival
Scut, with his coon-skinned hat and creepy yellow eyes, became one of my clients after his life of bullying finally caught up with him and he was arrested for striking a police officer who was trying to break up fight between Scut and much smaller boy. Scut professes that he didn’t realize the man pulling him off was an adult much less a cop (not that it matters, really). After his arrest, Scut was court-ordered to do counseling.
Scut is an interesting young man with a dark history. I won’t get into his past, but let’s just say that at age 13, Scut had experienced more loss and hardship than most of us will in a lifetime. He is a very angry young man, who admittedly, finds joy in terrorizing small children.
After several weeks of counseling, I have just scratched the surface with Scut. He is just now beginning to open up and participate in his therapy. We are currently exploring his troubling past in effort to help him release the pain he has bottled up inside. We had a small breakthrough in our last session. Here is what Scut divulged to me:
Therapist: What was it like when Ralphie beat you up in front of all your peers, including your right hand man, Grover?
Scut: I was humbled for a day or two. But it really doesn’t matter to me if I win or lose a fight. I could really care less. I guess….you know (getting a little heated), my life sucks! How dare these other kids enjoy themselves around me?! (Calming down) I just want them to have a taste of my world.
Therapist: So, if I were to sum up your life in one word, I’d say “injustice.”
Scut: There is no justice! Not for me at least.
As I mentioned, we have a long way to go, but at least Scut is starting to get in touch with what is truly bothering him.
7. Stripe (Gremlins)
Presenting Problem: Basic disregard for human life
Diagnosis: 301.7 (Anitsocial Personality Disorder)
Strength(s): Natural ability to lead
Counseling with Stripe was short-lived (no pun intended). There were several different barriers that kept us from making progress. First, there the prison bars, which was quite creepy. I felt like I was doing therapy with Hannibal Lecter. Secondly, there was the fear-factor. Now, all the case workers were adamant when they informed me that he is more scared of me than I am of him. I wasn’t buying it, to say the least. And lastly, there was the language barrier. It is all kinds of difficult trying to do therapy with a creature that doesn’t speak a word of English. All he would ever say was “Gizmo, caca!” Needless to say, I terminated with him shortly after our first session. To this day, he remains locked up in a glass facility manufactured by the same designer who created the cell for the infamous Erik Lehnsherr, also known as, Magneto.
8. Charlie Brown (A Charlie Brown Christmas)
Presenting Problem: Melancholy, Low self-esteem
Diagnosis: 300.4 (Dysthymic Disorder)
Strength(s): Beautiful bald head; Kind hearted; Loyalty to friends
Ohhhh, Charlie Brown. What a sweet and adorable young man. As I work with Charlie and listen to his stories, there are many time when I think to myself how nice it would be to be a kid again. But, then there are other times that I’m reminded how difficult childhood can be.
Charlie’s mom seemingly has been concerned about Charlie for a while now. She is an interesting person. Whenever she comes in, I never see her. She always insists on standing outside my office door out of my view. I thought this was odd behavior, but I allowed it. When we met for the first time, all she said was, “Wah waah wah. Waah wah wah.” I couldn’t quite make it out, but by the tone in her voice and the fact that Charlie said, “Mom, I’m not sad. I just get bummed sometimes. I don’t need counseling,” I could safely assume she was concerned for her son's mental and emotional well-being.
After a couple sessions, Charlie exclaimed that for quite some time now he hasn’t exactly been happy, but he wouldn’t say he’s depressed either. Charlie stated there have been times when he finds himself excited about something, but that is usually short-lived. Charlie also deals with low energy and low self-esteem. Charlie stated he has a great group of friends that he loves dearly; and although he doesn’t question their friendship or loyalty in the slightest, sometimes they aren’t so nice to him, which doesn’t help. Charlie stated, “I can’t even count how many times that I have attempted to kick a football with Lucy holding it and at the last minute she pulls it away resulting in me falling flat my back. Ugh! It’s so frustrating!”
In hopes for a brighter New Year, Charlie is working toward the following counseling goals:
· To establish, clarify, and/or come to a better understanding of my personal boundaries.
· To effectively and respectfully communicate those boundaries to my peers by learning to stand up for myself in a way that minimizes the risk of jeopardizing friendships.
· To learn ways to effectively combat and/or cope with my melancholy.
You can’t help but love this young man. He definitely has stolen a piece of my heart. He informed me after our first session, that he didn’t have insurance to cover the cost of therapy nor did he have any cash to pay out of pocket. Well, because he had won my heart (and I needed to do some pro bono work anyway), I agreed to counsel him at a discounted rate. The cost per session for Charlie Brown = 5¢.
9. Marv & Harry (Home Alone)
Presenting Problem: Basic disregard for other’s property; egotism; alcohol abuse; outwitted;
Diagnoses: 305.00 (Alcohol Abuse); V62.81 (Relational Problem NOS)
Strength(s): Strong will to succeed
Marv and Harry were participants in a special therapy group I am facilitating for convicted criminals whom desire to turn over a new leaf and become an asset to society instead of a menace. This is an open group that has been in existence for nearly three decades. I am the fifth facilitator. Over the years, many notorious criminals have participated in this group, like Hans Gruber, Mr. Joshua, and Willie (a.k.a., Bad Santa). Obviously, this group wasn’t beneficial for a couple of these men, but with this population, you have to look for small successes; and if I can help one convicted felon be an asset to society, then it’ll all be worth it.
That said, Marv and Harry show lots of promise. At first glance, you might think these two hate each other; but actually, they are the best of friends. I think if these two stubborn individuals could learn to work together, there isn’t much they couldn’t accomplish. However, their friendship was put to test when they were embarrassingly outwitted, not once, but twice by 8 year old, Kevin McCallister. Harry is forever reminded of this as the McCallister crest has been forever branded into the palm of his hand. Marv suffers from minor brain damage after taking a horrific blow to the head from an iron that falls from the ceiling. Both men suffer from PTSD-like symptoms after these burglary gone horribly bad.
I am helping these two men re-establish their friendship and partnership and direct their strengths in a more positive, productive, and legal direction. I am optimistic in the future we’ll see these guys as successful businessmen who give back to society instead of steal from it.
10. Bumble the Abominable Snowman (Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer)
Presenting Problem: Intense anger and dissatisfaction with life
Diagnosis: 296.25 (Major Depressive Disorder, in Partial Remission)
Strength(s): Raw physical power; Withstand extremely cold temperatures
Bumble has been dealt a difficult hand in life. There are very few of his kind and by genetic design he is a meat-eating creature who can only survive in sub-zero temperatures. He is very unpredictable because at times he can seem calm and friendly, and at other times he can be fierce and terrifying. At all times, he is extremely dangerous.
Let me make this clear. I do NOT and will NOT justify Bumble’s behavior. Eating elves and talking reindeer is just wrong, no matter how hungry you may be. That said, Bumble has slipped into a deep depression after his experience with Rudolph and Hermey. He didn’t realize that that these two little guys were very strong when working together. As a result of this encounter, Hermey removed all of Bumble’s teeth. This has totally changed Bumble’s life. He has become an outcast among his kind. He has been bullied and teased relentlessly. His peers often refer to him as “Old Man Bumble” or “Humble Bumble.” And to add hurt to insult, he is on a strict seafood diet as he has no teeth to tear into red meat.
You may or may not feel sorry for Bumble, but regardless, he has become a client of mine and I believe in change. His newfound humility has actually made working with him feasible. In other words, I am not afraid of him biting my head off (literally) in session if he gets upset. There is a language barrier, but I happened to stumble onto a Yetti that is serving as in interpreter for me. Over the course of therapy, Bumble has made much progress. He has come to embrace the name “Humble Bumble” as he has found new meaning in life through service to mankind (instead of mankind being served to him). He has also met a lady friend, who not only loves and accepts him, but also holds him accountable to the changes he has committed himself to. They plan on being wed this time next year.
Well, that pretty much gets you all up-to-date with the work I’ve been doing with these Christmas characters this holiday season. I will continue to do my best to help them make the necessary changes in their mental health and relational journeys. Meanwhile, I hope you all have the merriest of Christmases and a fantastic New Year.