A short while ago, I decided to seek out counseling for some personal matters. If anything, I figured it probably wasn’t a bad idea to have someone to talk to. Unfortunately, when I went through my health plan trying to figure out who to see, they were able to give me a generic list of local counselors, but they really couldn’t offer me any information. So, I kind of went on blind faith, choosing one of the names based on the different (but very like sounding) choices they gave me.
Turns out, it was a bad choice. The person I chose was one of those “you kind of need to figure it out yourself and then I’ll take credit for actually accomplishing something” types of therapists. I saw that the moment I first arrived. When I noticed that her people skills were pretty lacking (it probably doesn’t help that I teach AND analyze interpersonal communication), I tried a few sessions, hoping I was wrong, but it turns out I wasn’t.
The first sign that something might have been wrong stemmed from when I sat in their lobby. I started to notice a lot of religious (specifically Christian protestant) stuff throughout the place. Even the generic slogans on the wall were more of a “Let Christ figure out how to make you better” kinds of rhetoric than anything else. As I started talking to the counselor from the beginning, I sort of got the feeling that she and I weren’t on the same wavelength. As a matter of fact, we weren’t in the same hemisphere.
To begin with, my life has all sorts of interesting variations that might work okay in a pagan environment, or even in a Unitarian like atmosphere, but what I’ve discovered over the years is that even though Christians talk a lot about forgiveness, they’re not really good at forgiveness when it comes to counseling. Back in San Francisco, when I tried to see a counselor about relationship issues, I had an obviously religious counselor try to “save” me from my lifestyle rather than help me figure out how to come to some sort of happiness. I kept trying to tell her that I wasn’t trying to “fix” myself but to be happier about myself. When someone is convinced that your lifestyle is against something they find acceptable (or normal), healing to them is conducted only by fire rather than helping you through the reasons why you chose therapy in the first place.
That’s the feeling I had when I went to a counselor this time around. From the initial conversation, I realized that we were never going to see eye to eye on what makes me tick, and once she found it out, I suspected we would be “working through my problems”, which would consist of trying to change me to something normalized instead of accepting I”m a strange guy and just try to get me to be happy being as strange as I might be.
After leaving that counselor, I received an email today (which I never signed up for) with tons and TONS of religious information about how the director of that counseling place saw God in the successes she perceived brought many of her clients to health (and God). I was reminded of a time years ago when I was in the Army and we were granted a “weekend retreat” during training, which consisted of the most vicious religious dogma I’ve ever experienced with evangelists yelling at us on a bus for two hours, convinced our souls needed saving before this weekend retreat was over. I’ve always been against captured audiences unless the members of that audience consent to being captured, which is rarely the case when evangelists act the way they do in the circumstances I’ve experienced with them in my lifetime.
The strange thing is: I’m not even against religion. I’m just very specific about my own, which doesn’t cause me to recruit others to it but to just be happy experiencing my own my own way at at my own time. Yet, I find religions that try to recruit me to be the most dogmatic and unyielding of those that exist.
This is the problem of living in a semi-Bible belt area of the country. I even receive this sort of attention at work where my old boss used to send out religious messages to her staff, convinced that they were appreciated. I still have a co-worker who does that as well. When you explain that your religious views are not similar, you basically get a blank stare and no change of behavior. So, I’ve stopped even trying to talk about it.
Anyway, I’m kind of rambling now, but I wanted to point out that sometimes I appreciate what religion does do for people. I just don’t like being lumped in with people who automatically seem to assume my beliefs and behaviors without actually asking me about them first.