birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

I'm Wishing ...

“I hope one day you’ll teach.”

“Your progress chart indicates a turn to teaching is in your future. How are you preparing?”

“I always wanted to be a teacher.”

Well, I’ve never wanted to be a teacher. So why does it keep coming up.

It’s my mother who wanted to teach, to follow in the footsteps of her spinster aunt teaching in the one-room schoolhouse in Nebraska. But, instead, she had to leave school in the seventh grade to do housework for a rich lady from their church. She never got to go back—not the way she wanted and dreamed. Maybe there were other impediments, but in her story it was always the same—“I’d have been a teacher if I could have stayed in school.”

So, what is it about MY not wanting to teach? I do feel, and think, often that I should teach. My friend who hopes it said, “You know so much; you’re so well-read; why wouldn’t you teach?”

Yes, why wouldn’t I teach? It scares the shit out of me. I’ve circled this before—this thing about having authority. This is what it comes down to. I don’t want authority. My analyst has tried to get me to frame it some other way—“Does it have to be about power?”

Well, yes, I guess it does—if I allow simply what comes up in ME. It is all about power—having it, wielding it, sharing it, disowning it, feeling it, AND not wanting it. Yet, everything in my life has been about amassing tons of knowledge. And, as the saying goes, “knowledge IS power.”

Is knowledge power? I don’t think so. Knowledge is a thing. Using knowledge may be powerful, em-power-ing—maybe. I really don’t know. I cannot think straight when it comes to power.

So, I have gone from hope to teaching to authority to power. And, I get stuck at power.

When I was in seminary, I sat in on a ministry course taught by a middle-aged black man who told the class, “Yes, being effective involves manipulation. Jesus was a consummate manipulator. We all manipulate. The only question we get to ask and answer is ‘Will we manipulate for good or ill?’”

Well, I don’t know about that, even though when I heard him say it I was stunned into a different understanding of the job of minister. And, manipulation is a form of power, of exerting power.

The vocation I finally settled to is psychotherapy, and there is manipulation involved some say. My empiricist and behaviorist mentor said, “Psychology is the science of understanding, predicting and controlling behavior.” Is it? Is it really? Does it have to involve control?

My current mentor, Carl Jung, once said, “Where love rules there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other” [On the Psychology of the Unconscious, 1917]. What does this mean regarding my rejection of power?

I dreamed recently of a friend. He has always had power—personal and societal. I don’t know how he got it. He seems so secure in himself, and in his role of teacher. I wonder if he is, in this dream, a symbol for the power I eschew in teaching.

In Jung’s cosmogony and ontology, there is no thing without its opposite. So, am I limiting my capacity to love by eschewing power? His protégé, and apologist, Edward Edinger says, “It is necessary to leave room for evil if one is to contribute to the real world....” [The Anatomy of the Psyche, 1972]. Is there something more for me to “contribute to the real world”?

Must I teach? What must I do to gain hope in my teaching faculty? After all, I “know so much” and I am “so well-read.” Shouldn’t I share that embarrassment of riches? I just don’t know.

In the therapy hour, as I sit with clients, I am often prodded from within to speak what I know, or think I know, in response to their words and circumstances. My supervisor calls this interpretation, and encourages me to be present and curious about the patient. Is there an exercise of power in the sharing of my knowledge? How does it work for good and ill?

If I found opportunities to teach, would my sharing with clients in session ebb away or cease?

Am I to teach? Is there a hidden, secret wish to teach? I just don’t know!