Facing the tension

In other settings, the tension within the relationship between client and worker was a bit of a shock for the new worker. You set out on a career that is designed to help others, to overcome injustices experienced by the poor, the sick or the elderly, and it is hard not to believe at some level that your efforts will be appreciated by those you are trying to help. The sentimentality of this expectation will not be hidden for long, although there are those who cannot really forgive the ingratitude of some clients – the basis for a rather bitter future in which moralistic judgments feature increasingly large.

The young social worker has to learn some harsh truths. Poverty is of course not an ennobling experience. People who lack the opportunity to grow and mature cared for in a loving relationship with their parents or carers, tend to have serious immaturities and sometimes primitive and unattractive emotional lives. Working with such troubled people involves sticking with them until they achieve a loveable state. We are used to this with children; we coin the term ‘the terrible twos’ to describe a difficult process through which children have to grow. There is not a parent who has not at some point hated their child as they fight their way through some emotional developmental crisis.

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