Most of my clients do not know of a time without a cell phone in one hand and an iPod in the other. They tell me all the time that they “NEED” their lifeline and without it they will just give up the ghost. Of course we all know that is completely false but how hard it is to communicate reality with delusional thinking! I recently had a client who complained that his mother was using a free cell phone provided by the universal service fund for low income families. This client had a personal cell phone and is complaining that it does not have a QWERTY keyboard for faster texting. Frustration over the lack of immediate gratification is a major issue I am dealing with in my counseling experiences.
I can remember growing up with one LANDLINE phone for years, without an answering machine. I remember being so excited when my family was able to save up enough money to purchase an answering machine that used cassette tapes because, let’s face it, it was very troubling having to answer the phone every time it rang, right??
When I speak with clients and ask them if they have a landline phone at home, they look puzzled and definitely seem confused when I ask if they have an answering machine. I process with them how quickly technology is changing and the nature of “new cool things” becoming obsolete even before you make the purchase. We counselors are dealing with the destruction of any concept of patiently saving up money to purchase what we wanted 2-3 months ago. Technology has unquestionably given us many benefits but also supplied the “need” for immediate gratification.
It is delusional to think we need to have something in our possession that did not exist 50 years ago. Try to explain how humanity communicated 100 years ago and you will receive the biggest deer in the headlights look from your young client. It is actually scary that no client or family member wants to take the time to pursue patience, which is a virtue.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, virtue by definition is “conformity to a standard of right, a particular moral excellence, a beneficial quality or power of a thing, a commendable quality or trait, etc… So if patience is a virtue then shouldn’t humanity as a whole strive to obtain that virtue? I try to instill patience within my clients and especially their parent(s)/guardian(s). What is not taught is not going to be lived. What is taught is going to be lived and then expanded generation after generation.
Counseling the mindset that everyone is entitled to immediate gratification is probably the hardest and most frustrating issue for this clinician. Entitlement to new cell phones, new video game systems, new computers, new clothes, new fancy shoes, new…new…new. I counsel with an intentional calm and patience that is foreign to a majority of my client base. Parents complain that their child is hyper and never stops but they are just living what they are taught. You must keep going, you must never stop, you must receive, you must take the pill to slow down, you must _______. You fill in the blank.
Patience, hard work, saving for a rainy day, following instructions of authority, rearing children with an accepted moral code would all be considered a virtue. New technology is not a right, not an entitlement, and definitely not a virtue.
Josh Andrews is a counselor at a behavioral health agency working with children, adolescents, and families. His professional interests include the spiritual side of humankind, cognitive behavior therapy, reality therapy, and advancing the knowledge and practice of professional counseling.