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Art Imitating Life

I am a big fan of the HBO series, In Treatment, in which an NYC therapist, (played by Gabriel Byrne) grapples with his patients’ issues as well as his own.  Each week features three patient sessions and then one of Byrne with his own therapist (the amazing Amy Ryan). This year I have found the storyline that includes Byrne and his therapist to be absolutely riveting. Way more compelling than the dramas of his patients, though the writing and acting is superb in all of them. (Actually the Debra Winger character/storyline did nothing for me, but you might disagree.)

Here is the thing that fascinates me: when Byrne’s character is in the role of the therapist, he is competent, smart, compassionate, and really committed to helping his clients unravel their issues.  But, when he is on the other side of the couch he is confused, depressed, hostile, really a man who, as he says, “has lost his way.” How do we reconcile this inconsistency, where on the one hand he is a professional so capable of helping others and yet, unable to help himself?

To me, this show is a perfect metaphor for the pressure we experience when we take the podium. It is a struggle to see ourselves clearly when we are in the hot seat, when it’s our turn to stand and deliver a presentation in front of others. For most of us, it is virtually impossible to bring an objective eye to our own performance. Feedback from a neutral voice is, in my mind, the only way to get it right: to see your way through your speech clearly.  So, do yourself a favor; if you are concerned about an upcoming presentation, relax. Get help. Risk being in the hot seat and enjoy all the rewards that will flow from this process.

Charlotte Dietz

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