Many years ago, when our practice served as a training center for doctoral candidates in clinical and counseling psychology, I recall supervising an intern from a foreign land who, despite my best efforts to injunct her from standing at attention whenever I entered the room, never paid heed to my entreaties for her to cease and desist.
One day, following a rather intensive supervision session, in which the clinical issues initially referenced by her as primarily “patient” problems were subsequently interpreted by me, as the counter-transferential projections of her own “personal” issues onto those very patients, she gasped, blushed, and then blurted out “You are Pranam!”
Not conversant with Hindi, I inquired, “What does Pranam mean?” and she replied, “Guru of Gurus.” I reflected, momentarily, appreciating that a “mentoring moment” had serendipitously presented itself and said, “You can only know that I am Pranam if you are also Pranam.”
She seemed genuinely perplexed having consciously-intentioned, I suspect, to convey her deepest respect and profound obeisance to formal rank and authority, albeit, in “caste-like” manner, to yours truly. Yet, she gave me little choice but to risk “adding value” to the “bucket” of her incremental self-awareness.
I continued that had she deemed me NOT to be Pranam, it could only have been true if the true “Pranam-ness” in her concluded that there was no true “Pranam-ness” in me, therefore, for her to assert “You are Pranam!” asserted, by way of her own projection onto me that it was really she who was the true “Pranam” and I but her reflective echo!
Needless-to-say, she gasped, blushed, and then blurted out absolutely nothing! Her posture slumped, facial expression appeared dejected and she hung her head. Clearly my words had profoundly impacted her and I asked if she might be able to put words to the “heaviness” of her manifest non-verbal communication.
To my surprise, she confessed to wanting to be more like me as a mental health professional and wishing she had both the extensity and intensity of theory, research and clinical practice armamentaria to multiply-resource herself relative to her emerging and evolving assessment, diagnostic and treatment skills.
It has been a long-standing bias for me that if someone has to prove something it invariably proves its opposite since “proof-is as proof-does.” Consequently, there is really no discernible point in shining any spotlights upon a given “star” because the task of any star is to merely brighten the sky and success in doing so is usually its own reward.
The doctoral candidate hoped to become a bright and shining “star,” illuminating the darkness of the profession with her being the “guru of gurus” or, alternatively, “Pranam,” yet, I knew full-well that for one to name something does not always an identification, nor an identity make.
All true “guru of gurus” in the world, will have no particular need for fame and fortune and even less need for any reflected appraisal attesting to the magnificence of their special gifts, talents or powers. They will simply go about their business and do what they commit to do and do so using the best of their ability given the specific situation.
My intern complimented me by verbalizing in her special language that I was a special “guru” and in order for her to really know that in me meant that, by implication, she was equally, if not even more special, to be able to accurately assess and diagnose the “guru-ness of gurus” in me because it was in her all-the-time.
The only entity that could properly inform me “You are Pranam!” was the only entity that could properly anoint me “you are Pranam” which could only be a “guru of gurus” or a more higher ranking “Pranam” who could say: “the “Pranam” “star” in me, by anointing you, recognizes the “star” in you, reflecting the “Pranam-ness” back at me”.
My mentoring comment was that if she had to label me as “Pranam”, which was a clear-cut projection of the “Pranam-ness” in her, then the very goal of actively attaining “guru” or “guru of guru” status was akin to reinforcing a caste mentality and all that remained was for us to pick teams to decide which one was more or less guru-deficient!
When, in truth, “You are Pranam!” you no longer have to be “Pranam!”
Author Note: Dr. Larry B. Gelman is a Clinical Psychologist and a Personal Mentor
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Dr. Larry B. Gelman, Dr. Glenn B. Gelman, All Rights Reserved.