When more of a good thing is too much

One of the most interesting things I heard the Ohio Counseling Association conference a couple of years back was something in the presentation on qualities of an effective counselor. The official title of the break-out session was: “Beyond Techniques: Understanding How Counselor Characteristics Impact Counseling Impact.” This was presented by Scott Hall PhD, LPCCC-S and Michelle Flaum, EdD, PCC-S.

My favorite part of it was a Character Identity Inventory that looked at Cardinal Values, which are the values we strive to live out as counselors (and as human beings). These Cardinal Values have what the good doctors call Shadow Values. There are under-developed Shadow Values, which is what we commonly think of when we think about good/bad. Then there are over-developed Shadow Values, which totally made me think of the internet.

For example (and this is the version that made me think of the internet), Honesty is a Cardinal Value. Dishonesty is the underdeveloped Shadow Value. But the overdeveloped Shadow Value is Bluntness, Without Tact.

How many times have you watched Facebook go up in flames because someone is saying something extreme and hurtful and defending it by saying, “I’m just being honest!”

I am really intrigued by the idea of overdeveloped Cardinal Virtues because I think they may be the hardest to change. Moderation can be hard anywhere but on the internet sometimes it seems like rigidity reigns only sometimes it’s disguised as being truly free-thinking, truly brave, truly committed to a cause.

So how can we tell where we are on the continuum?

We can ask ourselves, “How does practicing the virtue help or harm you and your relationships?” And then sometimes we just need to get quit typing and come to bed already instead of trying to fix everyone else who lives in our computer.

Comments 17

  1. I really really relate to this. The result of the burnout, for me, is that I do my best to steer clear of drama-ridden places. And my own blog is practically impotent. I done with people acting like assholes and I’m tired of my own inability to NOT CARE about what assholes say.

    I’ll say this, though. If you didn’t blog, or something, I would really really really miss you.

    This comment brought to you by the letter N and the word really.

  2. I’m sorry—it sounds exhausting and awful. I can’t turn off the care in those situations myself, and would lie awake at night if strangers on the internet called me names. =/

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  4. This is why I don’t blog. I’m not sure I can deal. Though I might start so I people can check my cancer treatment progress without calling me all individually. It’s lovely of them, but I get tired of talking about it!

    On another note, I remember that cartoon, but I remember it as “something is wrong on the internet.” And I still say that to Tom when I have trouble disengaging. And we both laugh, because we totally get it.

    I, too, would miss you if you left, but I totally get it, since I’m too much of a wimp to even blog.

  5. Dawn, You’ve put yourself on the front lines in a lot of different arenas and it makes perfect sense to me that you’re done. I mean, you’ve fielded more than a lot of people, and you’ve been at this game a long time. Why shouldn’t you be ready to leave the field?

    Types the woman who hasn’t blogged about anything controversial in four years.

  6. I love shadow work. My fabulous therapist got me all into understanding our shadow selves. I recommend Romancing the Shadow: A Guide to Soul Work for a Vital, Authentic Life and Meeting the Shadow. My first marriage had serious shadow issues going on. Oooh, how I wish you were closer and we could discuss this stuff live for hours.

  7. I don’t know, it seems that with millions more blogging and social media the IT thing it does seem worse to me. I wish it were different but anytime you get so many people involved there are going to be people who can’t play by the rules – even if it means that if they did, they could present their side of an issue. That’s sad to me because who knows? I might have been able to learn from them.

    And I LOVE that cartoon.

  8. Yeah, years ago at a faculty party another homeschooling mom asked why I didn’t jump in with defense when a curmudgeon in attendance was criticizing homeschooling. Um, yeah, as home-birthing co-sleeping breast AND bottle-feeding vegetarian non-vaccinating but HOORAY for circumcision homeschooler who believes in phonics, good handwriting and weekly spelling tests, I’ve had my fill of responding to critics, thanks. Sometimes you gotta let someone else patrol the global consciousness.

  9. Hardly anyone reads my blog, and I hardly write about anything personal or controversial anymore. But I can totally get where you’re coming from. In fact, I’m READING less and less blogs, too. I can’t take reading blog posts by other people who insult others. I cleaned out my google reader over the weekend. If people can’t write without attacking others, then I’m no longer reading them.

  10. 1. You should be a professor at Gallatin. They would love you! You are just so… Gallatiny. Sometimes really Gallatiny people annoy the hell of out of me, but then I think, “Those are the types of people I want raising my son.” I don’t have the ability to be Gallatiny because it requires a certain openness and receptiveness that I don’t possess. But you totally do.

    2. ANYWAY, the internet. Oh, the internet. I love that xkcd comic, so true (I love xkcd in general, too). But like, I get so unreasonably upset over the personal attacks I get on various blogs and blabbity bloo but I just gotta take it in stride. It seems like you’ve been doing so, though. I’m honestly very impressed. For me, when I start getting into it with somebody, I take a step back and try to look at it objectively: am I really THAT PERSON? That person who gets into FLAME WARS on the INTERNET, and lets it take up space in my brain? Hell no. I have real friends, real people. real enemies to fight with a cry with and spend time with. Positive relationships fostered by the internet are great, but when you’re in the position of being virtually screamed at by an anonymous face, and you have the option of just TURNING OFF THE COMPUTER and walking away, well… why don’t you? Learning to do that is what’s important, I think. You’re getting there. I still have a ways to go.

    3. Did I miss something? What is this conference?

  11. I can relate- its not exactly why I don’t read and write as much as I used to.. but its a contributing factor. A lot of false misunderstandings occur when communicating through written word only… and in many cases they are things that would be more easily and quickly resolved when connecting face to face. Or not. But then you wouldn’t have even engaged with that person to begin with. I am so grateful to the internet for helping me START important conversations (like around adoption), but its not a successful endpoint, and just becomes exhausting if you try to work it that way. I agree with Suz’ possible take on just why this is getting you you now vs earlier… xoxo

  12. Somewhere I read something about evaluating your words by truth/kindness/necessity, and nothing gets said that doesn’t meet two of those.

    So don’t say something unkind unless it’s both true and necessary (during an intervention, perhaps), and don’t say something untrue unless it’s both necessary and kind (“What a lovely outfit, Aunt Philomena!”), and of course true, kind things can be said even when they’re completely unnecessary.

    I love this concept, but in practice I think it’s way too easy to fall into the trap that correcting the wrongs on the internet is a necessity.

  13. oh, GREAT post. Sometimes (okay often) the internet just makes my head want to EXPLODE. I find that I’m thinking about stuff someone said on a blog weeks later, long after the original author is thinking about something else. That xkcd cartoon must be a scene from a documentary about my life because ouch, it sums up too many of my evenings.

    I am so incredibly grateful for all I have learned through the internet. Your blog has been a big part of that – thank you. But sometimes I wonder whether I’m going to reach a point where all the internet reading I do will do more harm than good.

    I think what I’m trying to say is : If you go, I will miss you hugely. But I could understand why you would.

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