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  No Lone Rangers
  BQR ~ summer 1996

n the underside of one of the hatch covers of the dory Nippomo Dunes are written the words, “We saddle our own broncs out here.” When I first saw that a few years ago, I got a big smile on my face and was struck by how well it expresses something that boatmen seem to live by. As a counselor I’ve spent a good portion of the last twelve years trying to convince people to buy into the virtues of standing on their own two feet. It seems to be a law of the universe that leaning too much on others doesn’t work well at all, and the problems that dependency causes are what brings a lot of people into my office with emotional pain. In fact, it might be the main reason I tend to look up to boatmen as very self-reliant people. I really admire that all to hell.

Well, I’ve been thinking lately that as important as it is, self-reliance is really only one side of a two sided coin—just like everything else. The truth of the matter is that it’s not only okay, but necessary, to lean on others from time to time. (Not overly dependent, just interdependent.) After all, everyone has some problems that seem really huge and overwhelming from time to time. But, just like some people always try to solve problems by turning to others, I’ve noticed that for this “lone ranger” type of person it can feel all but impossible to admit to needing support or help, even though you can be sure he or she is not the only person ever created that is not immune to being overwhelmed.

Another thing that I’ve noticed about most river guides is how very good they are to people. I’ve noticed a lot of fantastic “therapy” happens on the river, and the guides are the ones making that happen. (Another thing I admire—and steal—to use in my office.) Guides never seem to mind going the extra mile for other people’s well-being, whether its a physical thing or a mental/emotional thing. Guides seem used to being understanding of others and never seem to judge anyone else for being the frail pukes that they really can be. What a strength! I guess I wonder if some guides (and other self-reliant folks) wouldn’t benefit from learning to extend some of that same understanding to themselves—as in: take as good care of yourself as you care for and about others. I mean, the Golden Rule does not say take real good care of others and neglect yourself.
Food for thought—being too much of a lone ranger might mean someone (you?) is suffering needlessly. Friends love to be mutually helpful to each other. Counselors are eager to help, and have the advantage of offering confidential services (they cannot tell anyone anything without your written permission). And, believe me, experienced counselors have heard it before, and understand where you’re coming from—it’s their job. They won’t be shocked, surprised, or overwhelmed by your problems and feelings. Psychology has learned a lot just in recent years about how to be more useful than ever to people in dealing with depression, solving problems, and bringing overwhelming stuff back under your control. The answer might just be sitting there, waiting for you.

Terri Merz

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