Home > Playing in Life's Ballpark > #1 — On Getting Started: Seeing the whole field

#1 — On Getting Started: Seeing the whole field

My Dad was a great baseball fan.  He taught me a lot about the game and, in the process, about life.  His favorite team was the Red Sox and so, naturally, our summer vacations would always include a number of trips to Fenway Park in Boston.  As a result, over the years I came to have a rather intimate sense of the place.  Mostly we sat in the middle of the grandstand, but on a few occasions we actually got seats in the front row right next to home plate.  We were close enough to hear each pitch coming in from the mound and to hear the players talk to each other and curse the umpire.  The sense of intimacy was unmistakable.  Those were special times.

There were also times when we sat in the very back row at the top of the grandstand.  Fenway didn’t have an upper deck back then, and this was about as far away as you could get and still see the entire field.  Today these are often referred to as “the cheap seats.”  The players seemed a lot smaller from up there, and you couldn’t hear anything but the crowd.  Yet there was something special about being able to take in the entire scene with a single glance.  As each batter approached the plate, you could see the catcher flash a signal and then watch the infielders and the outfielders all adjust their positions.  You could see the coaches flash signs to the runners, who would then adjust their leads as they stepped off each base.  And when there was a hit with runners in scoring position, you could see everyone on the field, including the umpires, make their individual movements and then converge on the play.  The view of the game was very different from the one in the front row.  There were things you could see from up in the back row that you couldn’t see from anywhere else.  As a youngster, I learned a new word for all of this: perspective.

During my years as a therapist, I have been fortunate in that some of my clients have also been some of my best teachers.  Working with them, I have had those familiar experiences of extreme intimacy and broad perspective.  Many of my clients, past and present, are adult survivors of child abuse.  The healing process with these clients has of necessity taken us into some very personal and private places together where very little can be hidden.  Through these experiences I have come to see and respect how people often struggle as they try to find and understand themselves, try to make sense of their lives, and try to grasp why they have had to live with so much pain.  I have witnessed the awesome capacity of people to endure and through that endurance to heal and to grow.  Through my experiences with these people, I have also learned how their struggles can sometimes offer us insights into our own.  This is the basis for a long-standing truism in the clinical community that therapy changes the therapist as well as the client.  The reason for this is that therapy is about life, and not simply life in the abstract, but about actually living it. 

And so, through my writing I plan to share some of these experiences and the things I have learned from them.  I hope this will be helpful, not just for other therapists but for everyone who struggles to come to terms with what life is about and what it means to be healthy.  Some of the accounts may reflect intimate encounters — much the same as sitting next to home plate.  Overall, however, I hope my observations will offer some useful perspective.  After all, sometimes the best view is from up in the cheap seats.

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  1. September 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Don,
    What a wonderful analogy of the experience of life and of therapy. I very much look forward to following your blog. As always, I value your “perspective”. Martha Tate

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