There’s this dream that I keep having…I like it, I think it’s a good one, but I bet a lot of people would think It’s more like a nightmare. I’m going to share because… well, why the hell not?
It usually starts of panning around a room, not a big theater, but a place with a stage and a bunch of seats. It’s usually kind of reddish with a wood stage. It’s my first time doing a public self-help seminar. I’m scared and excited, but sure that I can really help some people, if they’re open and really want it. As the view goes around the room, I’m offstage somewhere, and the “camera” settles for a moment on this big sign sitting just in front of the stage. It reads in bold letters “If adult language offends you, the exits are located” and there’s a map of the room with red arrows designating the exits.
So then I come out and I start my speech. I’m telling people that everyone is capable of greatness, we all have more power than we give ourselves credit for, yadda yadda, it’s good stuff. People are smiling and nodding and really into it. I move around on stage and physically get into it. I’m exuding this strength and energy and wiseness that people are really digging.
Then I start taking questions. I’m kind and helpful, I’m gentle, I’m even funny. People are clapping and receptive, some are taking notes, and people are walking away from the “hot seat” happy. Then one comes up whose every word is self-defeating and self-pitying. I know this person needs me more than any of the others. I also know the usual tactics aren’t going to work on this one.
“Okay, shut up for a minute.” I interrupt. “Listen to yourself. Do you hear the self-hating, miserable shit you’re spewing? Stop it. Right now.” And a look of fear and confusion crosses their face. I proceed, not too harshly, but harsh enough. I tell them the hard truths that are written all over their face, in their words and even in their body language. They cry. I hop off the stage and give them a hug. I take their face in my hands, look them dead in the eye and say “I’m not doing this to hurt you. I’m doing it because I love you. I love everyone. I want you to be better, happier, whole. You deserve that.” And they collapse against me weeping, chest heaving and I know that I hit home.
I help them get composed and send them back to their seat. The audience is buzzing, some hesitantly clapping, others whispering. Looks of compassion, understanding, hatred and confusion pass over faces in the crowd. I wipe the tears from my own eyes and look out on the gathering. “Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes we need a kick in the ass to snap us out of what’s killing us inside. Sometimes you really need to take a hard look at yourself, see the broken, the ugly, admit that it’s there and commit to facing and fixing it. Sometimes someone else has to show it to you. Either way, that pain can be your greatest strength and best lesson.”
It usually fades out around there, and fades back in to people mostly coming up to thank me and telling me what a refreshing and unusual experience it was. Some leave in disgust, but the overall vibe is a good one. In one dream I got a letter some time after the seminar from the person I made cry, thanking me because it changed their life for the better. It hurt and made them face a lot of demons, but they grew from it and became pretty amazing and happy.
While there’s part of me that’s felt like I needed to be a clone of other self-help gurus in order to be successful and really help people, that dream exemplifies the real me and how I’d really like to handle it. I once said I’d be the Dennis Leary of self-help. It’s not too far off. Sometimes people need tough love. I’m good at that. I can be that harsh strike of reality and do it with a heart full of love. When I think about it, it’s a fairly rare quality, and one the world probably needs. It would go against everything people expect from the field, but maybe my brand of motivation and change is just what the One wants me to bring into the world. Maybe it’s what the world needs.