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01/27/2006 - 7:55 p.m.

THE RAGES OF THE AGES

I used to be much better at this. Of all the things that seem to be decreasing with age, I never thought my ability to withstand strong emotion would be one of them. After all, there is a large part of my own personality that could be described as fiery. That part used to understand the strong emotions of others. Whether I responded with fire myself or with my occasional zenlike calm, did not really matter. What mattered was that the wave of emotion passed over me only on the surface. No more. Nowadays, it is more like hitting an iceberg.

Yes, it is true that I still have a teenager at home. While, like most teenagers, she occasionally engages in a bit of strong emotion herself, the truth is that she is mostly even-keeled except when tired or hungry. She is not where I am noticing the decrease the most. It is at work that I am no longer a surfer--depression, anger, anxiety—and there is nothing I can do about it. I once described myself as the wife of my office but I'm not the wife. Instead, I'm the mother: the foster mother and they all come with a history.

Worse, my clients often have been young men of strong emotion, usually anger. I still outwardly remain calm. Years and years (and years and years while we are on the subject of age) have taught me that clients are calmer when I appear calm. A soft, quiet voice does not add energy to their own anger. It does not end the anger but it does keep me from adding to it. The technique has not changed or weakened. The toll it takes has.

Maybe this is just a phase. Maybe if I just buck up now, my ability to withstand all the emotional commotion will return. Perhaps it is just on vacation. I sure hope so. If not, all this swirling emotion may result in one of the rages of the ages—from me.

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