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It Starts With An Apology

Every other day in the psychiatric hospital someone swears at me and/or threatens me. What’s intriguing is what can happen the next day:

“Dr. Guterson, I’m sorry about yesterday. It’s just that I’m so angry about being here.” “Hey Jim, that’s ok. I understand. If I got upset about these things, I could never last here. I appreciate your apology. Let’s work together.” What I love about this is that the patient (here, ‘Jim’) himself is the proactive one, the one who first starts the dialogue of apology. He is able to have perspective and look at himself. Even if he’s saying it as a ‘manipulation’, a strategy to hopefully get out of the hospital soon, I still honor his insight and vulnerability. Makes me think of a quote I once saw:

“The first to apologize is the bravest; The first to forgive is the strongest; The first to forget is the happiest.” (author unknown) Research has shown that people who are able to apologize, people who allow themselves to be vulnerable, and people who let go of their anger, will live longer and happier.

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