You Have Herpes

Reality can be cruel. Sometime ago I was handed the inglorious task of telling a beautiful young woman that she had herpes. She was sure it was a bladder infection, but ultimately the science didn’t lie. There is a stigma that comes with something that is sexually transmitted, especially if you have a partner that does not have an STI.

The thing is, you can deny the reality all you wish, it will not change the facts. It’s like being pregnant, there is no “sort of”. Such it is with life. There are certain realities that come screaming your way no matter if you are willing or not, ready or not, believe it or not. Immanuel Kant believed that there were essentially two different worlds – the noumenal and the phenomenal. The phenomenal world is the world as we perceive it. The noumenal world is the world as it really is. They are rarely the same thing. For those of us raised on The Matrix it is the difference between the blue and the red pill. The real world is seldom as we perceive it.

We put on our sunglasses and filter everything to fit our view on the world. We have been raised to believe certain things, use certain coping mechanisms, employ certain cognitive interpretations and distortions. There is something in all of us that wants to believe we are the exception to the rule. Other people cheat on their partner and get caught but I am too smart, too slick, the exception. I can cheat on my taxes and get away with it. I can cut corners, take shortcuts, skim relationally, and do whatever the hell I want because, although other people get caught, I am not going to be held accountable. Sometimes we are even right.

Sometimes we can get away with enough that it actually reaffirms our excuses and entrenches this belief in our psyche. I see this often in counseling. People want to have their cake and eat it too. On a regular basis an individual will seek me out in order to get permission to do something cheap or immoral, or just a bad idea. They are looking for a professional to condone their desires. Often they leave disappointed.

Although it is not my job to judge others, I do recognize a bad idea when I see one. And I see many. Day after day people walk through my life and describe how they are trying to take a shortcut, convinced that they will not be held accountable. After doing this job for years I am often tempted to stop them mid-sentence and tell them how things are going to turn out in six months or a year. To quote Agent Smith from The Matrix, “That is the sound of inevitability.” 

I am guilty of occasionally telling my clients who are vulnerable, in recovery, or in the midst of crisis, “If it feels good, don’t do it”. If you are still with me at this point you undoubtedly understand what I am trying to teach them. Of course it is good to do good things. The problem is, however, that many things that are instantly gratifying are in fact horrible options. Snorting cocaine is instantly gratifying, so is cheating on my wife. The surge of chemicals in my brain overwhelms me with yummy goodness. It seems like a good idea at the time. That’s my phenomenal world talking, and it’s lying to me. Wisdom rarely whispers to easiest route to success.

Real growth has little to do with taking shortcuts. You can get your black belt in martial arts online if you mail ten dollars to some spurious Do Jang but that doesn’t mean you know how to fight. There are no shortcuts to a real black belt, or a real degree, or actual wisdom… or healing. One of the screensavers that pops up on my computer at the office says, “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” That’s reality. – If it seems to good to be true, it is. – If anyone tells you that you can be whole in eight sessions of anything, they’re wrong. – You can’t change anyone else, just yourself. – Guilt/feeling bad is not the same as doing anything – No one else is to blame for your life – Trauma doesn’t usually just go away – Prayer doesn’t fix everything.

Sometimes you have to get off your ass and do something – No one cares as much about your problems as you do – The real world is boring, make friends with that – Everyone is as screwed up as you are… trust me on that … and to repeat – If you aren’t enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it (Cool Runnings)

12 thoughts on “You Have Herpes

  1. My 3.5 year old left me gobsmacked the other day when he sang a tune that went like this “You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you’ve gotta go through it” Great article again Scott. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Just last night I had this intoxicating idea revolving around getting even that would have cost around 1200 bucks. It would have solved my limping computer problem and made me feel a whole lot better about my husband’s ‘giving’. But ultimately, it’d have blown my hard won balanced budget in spite of how alluring a shiny white Apple seemed and how good I imagined it’d have felt to say, ‘well you did it, so can I!’. Two poor decisions don’t make a right one.

    Great post – going to read it twice!

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