There is an understanding now that if Will gets into trouble and arrested the local police will call Kate and she in turn will call Sarah to attend the police station as a representative no matter the time. This is being ‘in the mess’ of his life and mess is hardly straightforward. The other ‘messes’ in his life that he was being aided with included attempting to stop his drug dealing, his suicidal thoughts, money issues and regular contact with the law. To understand Will’s reality requires a level of co-habitation that you won’t get by dancing round the ring; those in the centre know. The detail of what is happening is different here, if you can bear it. This is being ‘in it’. It’s the stuff that other people don’t want to do. Dirty work is defined as having a relationship with what is really going on.
Reality requires a comfortable open-mind, one that isn’t shut off to the awfulness of it all including its own machinations. Are you able to remain open, to not blame and believe the person when they say how awful it is? It’s a balancing act to be ‘in it’ with someone and to remain objective at the same time. It is a measure of attunement, experience and training; none of which can be found from the often prescribed distance between professional and individual. Distance is useful in acquiring objectivity but theory isn’t practice and practice doesn’t always evolve into theory. If it did then treating the individual would be a thing of the past as there is no such thing as a separate individual. The protagonist of distancing is that if it is to be accepted as reality then it could apply to you and that is threatening. It needs to be unrecognisable as something that could happen to you but in fairness it does. Distance and toleration wave to each other as they go their oppositional ways. A lot of professionals leave the profession because they can’t do the work anymore; it becomes too stressful, alternative careers are undertaken and they are replaced by agency workers or people who are prepared to work in that structure. Professionals will cocoon in their own domain without serious consideration of inter-linking. Considering how close we live to one another we couldn’t be further apart.
For help to be comprehensive objectivity is required which means narrowing the relationship. Distance will then take care of itself because they are binary. However this does not mean losing sight of oneself. There is a difference between ‘doing dirty work’ and ‘doing someone else’s dirty work’. Doing too much is just as detrimental as doing too little, being too helpful or over-reacting to situations. It requires awareness. Some dirty work has to be done by itself, working out what is within the realm of someone’s management. Some people will let you do anything, others not so. If the relationship isn’t understood then people are robbed of the opportunity to do it themselves; lines are crossed. The point with doing dirty work is that the line is fluid. It will still hold when it is demanded but it is unnecessary for it to be so rigid.
In one case the professional was of the belief that everything they were being told was true. Their client was still taking drugs although saying not. The relationship had narrowed but the objectivity had been lost. It’s nice to believe what someone is saying to you and to fight their corner even if it isn’t reality. Both parties would have been, perhaps unknowingly, out for themselves. There wasn’t a true and trusting understanding of the relationship. They both strategically offered what the other required. Therefore the relationship had the appearance of reciprocity but in reality it was an illusion, except the fallout isn’t illusory; that is very real and extremely damaging.
Another example of doing someone else’s dirty work is when a professional or member of the public is doing another professionals work. John was a vulnerable 15 year old who had been kicked out by his father. He couldn’t go back and he didn’t have anywhere else to go. He was staying somewhere inappropriate. When a call was put in to the relevant hub they had no where for him to go either. It was asked that he be ‘kept hold of’ and to stay where he was although they knew of how extremely inappropriate this was. All parties in a professional capacity were known to one another. The severity of inappropriateness didn’t stop them from asking however and it wasn’t really considered as asking. If we hadn’t in all likelihood he was on the streets or in the hands of others. He came here because he knew we understood and other services wouldn’t or couldn’t. The building isn’t fancy but it has a feel to it; steeped in history. People slot in. They say it’s comfortable. We don’t have group rooms and counselling rooms sectioned off. This isn’t sterile working and more people come for the day to day stuff rather than the psychological. Often it’s due to housing issues or benefit issues; trying to get a doctor’s appointment this week rather than next. It won’t be long before door supervisors are being employed at the local doctor’s surgery. The frustration is palpable. What is also clear to see, for those who have the awareness, is that the main issues are interpersonal or intrapersonal. In the modern technological world where people can communicate as frequently as their heart beats they are lonely. Dirty work will tell you how lonely some people are and the lengths they will go to. Loneliness is a great marketing tool but it’s no match for evolution. Spirit is fighting back, whichever way it can.
In some cases dirty work is having someone ordinary to come and talk and be listened to. It doesn’t need to be a consultant or psychologist. Doing something immediately rather than sending them away or making an appointment. It is desperately sad that people have to convince professionals that they really need their help and to be informed that they do not meet their criteria; past from pillar to post. People are trying to graft themselves to criteria’s; no matter how clearly they don’t fit. As a result everyone has their mop out. Some sectors more consistently than others.
Dirty work requires tolerance. Often requiring work from the heart. What can be tolerated of you is important to. Tolerance is experience and those who don’t possess it stumble over the gaps in understanding. “Why does she have a big telly if she hasn’t any money?” Would you want to be ‘her’? Without tolerance derisory judgements arise and that is why the distance has to be close enough for the dirty work to be effective. It needs to happen first, system change second. We’re already in the dirt so leave the butterflies till later.