been most fortunate to be involved in a number of media events this
past year - and I don't mean because of the effect these opportunities
have had on my profile or that of "Life's A Twitch!" I've
been fortunate because each event in turn has produced a staggering
number of emails from people of all walks of life who wanted to 'return
the favour' and share their lives with me. It is a privilege to have
my inbox filled daily with the stories of such courageous, wise, and
beautiful people; their stories of strength humble me on a regular basis.
expected, many such messages were from individuals whose lives have
been touched by TS: parents, siblings, spouses, and those experiencing
TS directly. What came as a surprise (at least to me) was the volume
of email I received from people with pebbles in their shoes of a completely
different breed than my own. Pebbles with names like muscular dystrophy,
paraplegia, and dwarfism. People who were gay, and people who had suffered
great physical and sexual abuse, and people who were diagnosed with
all manners of mental disorder.
to realize since then, though, that there is a unity of experience that
transgresses across particular symptoms to ANYONE with a difference.
It doesn't matter WHAT your story is: whether it's about an odd mannerism,
the absence of a sense or limb, your race, sexual preference, a funky
neurology, psychological scars you carry, or something else entirely
a collective understanding nevertheless exists.
In a similar
sort of vein, Psychologists speak of something known as "common
factors" in treatment. Our discipline has recognized that regardless
of the approach you use (cognitive-behavioural, humanistic, insight-oriented,
psychodynamic, narrative, and so on) certain elements remain constant.
Things like confrontation of a problem, thereby leading to increased
interpretation, explanation, and/or understanding of that problem. Emotional
release. Reassurance and support. Given that most therapies are believed
to be of about equal effectiveness it is further believed by some that
these "common factors", inherent to the interaction between
client and therapist, may be the most important aspect of treatment.
It is not the language or framework you adopt - it is the underlying
message that is important. Bucking conventional wisdom, then, it seems
that it is NOT necessarily how you say it - it is what you say that
cares about all this? We should. It means that, rare disorder or not,
non-intuitive disorder or not, there are many potential friends, allies,
partners, advocates and professionals beyond our own 'camp' who through
their own differences can appreciate what we are going through. Who
know what it feels like to be marginalized. Who wrestle with the loss
of what they expected themselves to be versus what they are. Who deal
with the various emotions and loss of self-esteem that particular experiences
can bring about. It also means that OUR problems and THEIR problems
may oftentimes draw solutions from the same well. I, for example, have
been told many times that the strategies I provide for disinhibited
individuals are good solid ways of living, parenting and teaching that
work equally well for those dealing with other issues. To again counter
a traditional mind-set, it is NOT how one defines the particulars of
his or her difference that bind us then - it is the mere act of living
in difference that counts. Let these people in, and learn from them.
next time, my friends!
B. Duncan McKinlay, Ph.D.