I discovered this fantastic word (concept, really) on some recent meme. It was defined as a person who asks for advice and then goes out and does the exact opposite of what you say. I’m going to add to that definition a person who asks for your advice, then refutes each of your points and does nothing. They are both forms of what we used to call “energy vampires” back in my beauty industry days. Those customers who would spend an hour talking your ear off about their needs, then shoot down every suggestion and criticize every brush stroke. They latched on and demanded full attention, sucking out every last drop with their TMIs, rapid-fire questions, and talking-over. By the time they left, you were a husk lying on the floor, dried out and crunched underfoot. I know I’ve been an askhole, so unsure of myself that every little conflict or discomfort required hours of analysis and counsel with anyone who would listen. Askholes are entirely insecure, with little to no self-awareness or impulse control and a high level of need. Or at least that’s how I was.
One of the situations I found most frustrating and irritating about the therapeutic process was counseling askholes. Actually I felt much more strongly about it than that–working with askholes turned me off to the profession, and was a major reason why I didn’t pursue a career in the field after graduation, even after becoming nationally certified. I spent fifteen weeks working individually with clients who used me as a vent session, unwilling to listen to feedback or attempt decisive action of any sort. I believe very strongly that to be well we have to be dynamic–ever changing, ever moving in some direction; pace is unimportant, decisive action is. While I believe self-reflection is a critical component, I do view over-processing as a hindrance. My clients would come in and speak at length about their problems, the same problems plaguing them for years. They were listless when it came to looking for solutions. But the fierceness to which they clung to and defended their problems was maddening for me, and I left sessions seething. How DARE these people waste my time and their own lives with their glassy-eyed recitations of their issues, purely in broadcast mode, no new information absorbed. I’d point out a pattern or a simple solution and they’d say, yeah, but…and list the reasons it wouldn’t work for them and get right back to the deep dive into problem definition. Do not ask me if you do not want to hear or consider what I have to say, ASKHOLE! (And with this attitude, it’s abundantly clear I don’t belong in the role of therapist)
I almost found a path into the field when I began my master’s internship doing short-term, solutions-focused counseling with clients at Planned Parenthood. Because many of our clients were in crisis, we got to the glowing center of the issues right away, developing trust instantly out of necessity and working together to find the best outcome. These clients listened intently, asked questions and considered information carefully. Together, we searched for answers, and we found them. It was incredibly rewarding work, I think because of the shared energy and sense of urgency. People were willing to take risks (in fact, taking risks had brought many clients to us), because the vulnerability of an intended pregnancy encourages directness. I was able to give more love and nurturing, to create more safety and trust in an hour with these clients than I could in three months with the others. And since it’s all about me (because I reject the idea of forcing myself to do things I know aren’t right for me), I thought I could use the rewards of this brand of therapy to build a career.
I never did practice therapy after graduation, not even for an hour. Unless you count the endless hours I spent listening to people talk in circles about the same troubles, ears closed. You’re not an askhole if you are struggling and stuck and can admit it, and own it. Seriously, take ownership of your choices, and make them. Stop wasting your precious energy broadcasting your problems. You need to take decisive action, which is what you must do, one small choice at a time. Oh, and sorry I was such an askhole to you that/all those time(s).