When I was young and in school, I had a really hard time in my home. I was always in trouble because my father took schoolwork so seriously that I couldn’t find a safe way to do it.
So for example, if my father came home from work and I was doing my homework, he would say, why isn’t that already done? And I would be in trouble. And if he came home and I wasn’t doing my homework, he’d say, do you have homework? And if I said, yes, he would say, well, why aren’t you doing it? I’d be in trouble.
And if I said, I’ve already done it, he’d say, why didn’t you take it seriously enough, you rushed through it, and I’d be in trouble. And it was a real struggle for me until I learned the only way to protect myself is to lie and tell my father that I didn’t have homework. And then I would set my alarm for 3:00 AM. So I wake up in the middle of the night, cause that was the only safe time I could do my homework.
And as a young person, you don’t successfully easily get up at 3:00 AM. So some days I would get up and some days I wouldn’t and I’d have to go to school with no homework and I would get into trouble constantly. And in my school, in middle school and an early high school, my teachers thought of me as someone who wasn’t a good student and they treated me like I wasn’t a good student and they treated me like I wasn’t taking school seriously.
My guidance counselor in high school actually told me that I would have a future as a custodian because they didn’t think I was taking school seriously. What none of them did was asked me my story. None of them asked me, what’s contributing to this. None of them asked me what is getting in the way, what is difficult for me?
None of them asked me who I was. And somehow walking around times square, seeing a bazillion people from a bazillion different backgrounds and a bazillion different cultures. I just see everybody’s story. I think the hard thing in our field is we try to put people in categories like you are a depressed person, so you should be treated like this. And you are an anxious person and you should be treated like this.
And you were a trauma person, so you should be treated like this. But the truth is individuals need to be treated like individuals who have their own backgrounds, their own stories, their own cultural influences, their own reasons for doing the things they’re doing, saying the things they’re saying and behaving the way they’re behaving. We’ve got to learn how to treat people like individuals.
And I think the very best approach to do that is Solution Focused Brief Therapy because in every single session we tailor our language to match the language being used by that client every single time. You know, I think back to my high school years, being treated like you’re not a good student and you’re not smart and you need to be taking remedial classes and all of these things.
And I think what would have happened if they treated me like an individual, instead of treating me like you’re in the category of the non homework doers. So we’re treat you like this. but what would have happened. Every single year I would show up to school and they would give me my course load. They would tell me like the classes I’m taking.
You guys remember how exciting that was. You’d talk to your friends, like what classes are you taking? What teachers do you have? And every single year they would put me in remedial classes. And then I would ace tests. And by the end of the school year, I was in college level classes, college preparation classes, but they never left me in those categories because I was a non homework doer.
And you don’t deserve these classes. They actually would tell me that, but we’ve got to learn how to treat people like individuals. And I look around and I see everybody just living their story. Like there are people here wearing like tank tops, t-shirts and shorts. And that’s because they’re local people to this area and they’re not cold in 50, 60 degree weather.
Then there are other people with like huge hoodies on and huge jackets because they’re not from here, and they experienced this, whether it’s kind of cold. And whatever it is, everybody’s an individual and they have their story and then Solution Focused Brief Therapy. We’re asking people to tell their story that’s associated with their desired outcome and the best version of themselves.
And I can’t think of anything more magical that we can do to people. I wish someone had done that to me. I wish someone had done that for me when I was a child, but I’m damn sure going to spend the rest of my career doing that for other people too. And I want to empower you to do the same thing.
Absolutely agree! I work in an elementary school where “coded” children get treated as lesser; they’re told they can’t do some things instead of letting them try, encouraging them to do their best. Who are we to tell someone they aren’t capable? I have found that expecting good work from these children, and not accepting less than their best, not only elevates their self- confidence, but had them produce excellent work.
I love, love, love this! It makes ALL the difference.
I too wish just one person would have asked me in school, or even as a young adult, “so what’s going on? What’s your story?”