I love learning new words. I still remember standing against the wall in my second grade classroom waiting for my turn in the spelling bee and being so delighted when I spelled both “February” and “Wednesday” correctly for Mrs. Gilbert. We had been studying silent letters and I was on fire, but Wednesday and February aren’t particularly uncommon words. I love reaching into my memory banks and throwing less familiar old favorite words into conversation. People who know me well know that I am dismayed by the overuse of the words “awesome” and “amazing”. I mean, can a paint color be truly be awesome? Can a turkey sandwich be amazing? In my opinion there are about 10 situations and/or experiences truly deserving of the word awesome and 7 of them are the natural wonders of the world, one just might be Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk for the first time in 1983 at the Motown 25 Yesterday, Today, Forever special and another clearly has something to do with witnessing the birth of a baby.
Preamble aside, today I am skulking, which in case you are unfamiliar, and according to the dictionary on my bookshelf, is defined as “…loitering to avoid work”. Skulking also has a slightly negative connotation as if to say that someone who skulks is doing so because they are ultimately intending to do something bad. Skulking is close to malingering, another vocabulary gem. Today I am not intending to do anything bad except ignore, postpone or avoid doing some of the things that I really should do, which brings me to the crux of the matter.
Why can it be such a challenge to make progress in therapy when we are legitimately aware of that which we want to change/improve/address/abandon? Why do we skulk in therapy?
1-Occasionally we “loiter to avoid work” in therapy because to do the work means to accept responsibility and accept it not only for the circumstances that led to the problem at hand, but also accept responsibility for the ongoing dysfunction. Ugh.
2-Sometimes we skulk when deep down we would prefer for some other person to step up and either take responsibility or tell us what to do next. “It’s not my fault nothing got addressed, he/she didn’t say anything so how was I supposed to know it was a problem?”
3-Skulking can also become a full time job, so to speak, with the goal of maintaining the status quo and reinforcing hopelessness and negative self-talk which then deepen our sadness, depression and anxiety.
The standard therapeutic treatment for skulking is honesty, communication and vulnerability administered in regular doses through questions such as “tell me more about the way that made you feel?” or “I wonder how we could find out what your spouse really thinks of that behavior?” and this old favorite “What is the worst thing that could happen if you tried to do it differently?” It is my job as the therapist to not only spot skulking in action, but to help a client identify the pattern and to offer strategies that could help to transform skulking (loitering to avoid work) into an opportunity to make progress toward goals and engagement.
As for my own motivation today, I might just stop skulking and spend a few minutes on YouTube trying perfect my moonwalk…