By William Schroeder
When you think of a therapist, what image comes to mind? Likely it’s some middle-aged person sitting in an old chair and they are wearing an ugly sweater, glasses, and they occasionally mumble a response to your questions, correct? Well, I like to think of myself as the antithesis of this. I tend to dress a bit trendy and I am pretty hands-on when working with people. People often describe me as very personable and I like to think of what I do as working as a consultant. I meet people where they are and I am a partner in change.
So, there I am working with a client when I notice my stomach burbling. He is telling me about some difficulties assimilating to Austin and finding work. I think to myself, “Oh no. I think the protein bar I ate had milk products in it. This would be my luck.” The pressure kept building — with my stress — and I thought to myself, “Do I try and sneak one out? Do I leave the room? No, just put it out of your head and stay focused.” Apparently, my stomach didn’t like option C, because at that moment, a fart erupted that I can only compare to a trombone without a muzzle. My client’s eyes shot up and met mine. PANIC! I thought, “How in the world are you going to get out of this one? You have blown it… literally.”
My mind raced as it initially looked for a comfortable excuse. I wondered if I could I blame it on the chair some way? There has to be a way out of this! My mind flew back to high school when a girl had farted in class except it was worse in a plastic chair which acted as a megaphone to everyone else in the room. She was mortified but artfully played it off. How had she done that? It was the kind of confidence everyone longed for. I never had that kind of grace under pressure.
A smile crept across his face, and then I broke as laughter from both of us shattered the silence. Laughing, he said, “I could tell something was making you a bit uneasy today but I thought it was what I was telling you. Now I know the truth!” I was crying I was laughing so hard, and another toot squeaked out which made us both laugh even harder. I said, “I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I think I have solved your problems.” We laughed until it hurt.
We spent the rest of that session talking about that fart in some context. Primarily, it was centered on how we often hold back the things we most want to say for fear of an adverse reaction from others. I have to say that it brought us much closer together and we were able to talk about some things that previously, had been more difficult. In a session several months later he said, “That fart just humanized you even more and that really helped me to feel more comfortable with you.” All of it was reminder that life isn’t about always saying or doing the right thing at all times. Sometimes what we hold back can hold us back.
Brought to you by Just Mind, counselors in Austin who are working to provide their clients with the best care possible.
This post has gone viral since originally posting in 2012 and many colleges and universities across the country have added it to their private practice class curriculum. I never imagined it would be so popular when I wrote it. I guess it’s a reminder to quit camping out in your comfort zone and to put yourself out there. Thank you for all the kind emails and messages that people have sent and the relatable stories.
Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash