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Let me tell you a story – the “stupid” broke 50 year old

I never know who is going to walk through my door. In my first session with Mary (not her real name), a 50-year old mother of one, she told me that she is divorced, broke and stupid – and that was only the first 5 minutes of her first session. For the rest of the session she lamented her bad position in life. She told me that the only bright spot in her despicable life was her daughter, Ellen,  whom she loved very much. She went on and on about how wonderful and smart her daughter was and that she was now just beginning her career in advertising. And how she would phone her every day just to check on her because she “so worries about her baby”.

I found that Mary had given up on herself a long time ago and had turned all of that energy onto Ellen. Ellen felt smothered by all of this attention. I suspected that Ellen had intentionally moved away to university to get some breathing room, although Mary says is was because that university had a better business program.

At first it was difficult for Mary to focus on herself. She would often change the subject back to her daughter. After a few sessions she began to open up. She was testing me to see if I too would lose interest in her as her mother did when she was young. Her mother was an alcoholic who had explosive episodes when she drank. In her tirades she would often call Mary stupid and told her that she would never amount to anything.

Mary liked to talk. growing up she would talk with her girlfriends on the phone till it was past her bedtime, often forgetting to do some part of her homework. Then she would try to talk her way out of it at the school the next day. Academically she didn’t do very well. Math was “impossible” and she often didn’t settle down to study her other subjects.

I asked if she had ever been tested for ADHD. She said that her parents had never heard of that disorder when she was a child and that she didn’t think many adults had it. She did indeed test positive for ADHD. I told her that had nothing to do with her intelligence. It is primarily a problem of how well people focus and organize their life. She was relieved to hear that.

I said to her one session, “I don’t see a stupid person in front of me. I see someone who is good with words and brilliant with people”. She was taken aback. She had never heard anyone say that before. I explained that there was no such thing as being “intelligent”, that everyone had different intelligences and that hers was with making people feel comfortable by talking with them.

She wasn’t convinced at first. She did her own research and found several resources showing evidence for multiple intelligences. She began to trust me. This was something that was very hard for her because no one had ever shown trust in her abilities.

Over the next few months her confidence began to grow. She started to focus on her strengths and delegate her weaknesses. She became an event coordinator. It was a great fit because she didn’t have to sit still for this and she could use her talking smarts to network and attract more business. At 51, she finally found a match between her natural strengths and a career. That is what made it her Dream Career.











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