“It’s best to avoid confirming their beliefs,” they said, “but you can validate the underlying emotion.”
She was dabbing her eyes with a crumpled tissue already streaked with mascara.
“It’s been two years and I still can’t believe he’s gone. I thought we would grow old together, that he’d get to see his kids graduate from high school.”
“The sadness still feels overwhelming.”
“Yes,” she whispered before bursting into tears. “When will I stop feeling so sad?”
He avoided eye contact while his leg bobbed up and down.
“I feel so anxious, like I’m paranoid. It used to be that I only felt paranoid when I was high on crystal meth, but now it’s all the time. It’s like people are watching me all the time, like they want to know all my business or something.”
“It’s exhausting to feel so anxious all the time.”
“Oh my God, YES. I’m so tired, but I can’t relax.”
“I didn’t know what to say to my wife. She didn’t deserve any of this. I tried to stop, and I did for a few weeks, but then I’d download more of it. My wife was the one who answered the door when the police came to seize my computer. I would do anything to not have this problem; I know how many people it hurts.”
“You feel a lot of shame about looking at child porn.”
His face flushed and his voice quivered.
She heard every word, but her gaze was fixed to something on the other side of the room.
“I can’t. I’ve already said too much. I can’t. I can’t. They know, they will know, they already know everything. I can’t. It’s in the lights, it’s in the ceiling, it’s in the sky. It’s everywhere. I can’t. They will know and they will know through the lights—”
“You’re scared that something bad will happen if you tell me the story.”
“Yes! And I want to be strong, I don’t want to be scared.”
“The whites are better than the Asiatics—”
“Let me ask something else—”
“—and there will come a day when all the races will submit to us—”
“—I’m going to walk away if you keep talking about this—”
“—even people who went to a lot of school like you. I’ll remember that you were helpful, but you are still just an Asiatic—”
“—okay, I’m going now.”
“But Doctor! You know what I say is true! C’mon! Why won’t you talk to me about this? You’re not being a good doctor….”
“You also have to respect your own limits,” they said. “Sometimes you want to show that just how right you are, but it’s much more helpful to be effective. And sometimes it’s best for everyone if you end the conversation when you’re no longer effective. You can always try again later.”