Climbing the Ladder / A Therapist’s Dilemma


Just like anywhere else in business, the phenomenon of climbing the ladder exists in the mental health industry. Yes, even mental health therapists (and those who work alongside us) routinely choose this route to power. 

Climbers are often quite easy to spot; after all, climbing the ladder is a game and most people can spot the often unskillful moves of the players.  If you are going to play, you can never forget this one simple fact: Never throw in your ante unless you’re willing to lose.

Are you playing?

What is your wager?

1. Your wager will usually involve giving up some degree of integrity, replacing it with any number of less flattering traits – traits you would not normally want to model for your parents, your children or your clients; but you do and you are not fooling anyone.

2. The moment you start on your journey up the ladder, it is unlikely that you will ever be able to stop climbing. Neither will you ever truly rest. You will always be afraid of taking your eye off the ball. There is always someone coming up behind you – someone just starting to play. Keep alert!

3. The prize for climbing is never clear; it is unique to each player. To know what your prize is, ask yourself what would it mean if you got to the top? What would be there waiting for you? What are you after? Ultimately, over time, some players realize that the prize has always available to them. It may have been in how they viewed themselves to begin with – before setting their sights on climbing to the top.

If you’re not enough without something; you will never be enough if you get it.

4. The object of the game is to just keep going up. In order to maintain the momentum, you have to grip the rungs that are most likely to propel you forward, faster. That is not as easy as it sounds. Over time, you forget the risks ahead and you become more and more vulnerable to others with the same level of enthusiasm or more ambition than you have.

5. Some climbers believe that luck plays a part in winning the game. This idea might prove harmful, if and when your luck runs  out or someone else gets luckier. There are a lot more snakes nearer the top, as you climb – and a lot further to fall if you do.

6. If you’re playing the game, people can always identify you; and they will describe you in terms of your game: an opportunist, a user, fake, untrustworthy, back-stabber – duplicitous. The impression most people make of those who climb, play and promote their own interests are:

• They forget about everyone except themselves and the key people they believe can help them move up. People notice that.

• They develop a single-mindedness and a whatever-it-takes frame of mind. People notice that.

• They have no limit to their ruthlessness in pursuit of their goal. People notice that.

• They try to take less risk than those above them and those below, leaving everyone motionless and ineffective. People notice that.

• They become more focused on looking active and fast-moving than actually being active and fast-moving. People notice that.

• They start to believe and behave as if they are active and fast-moving. People notice that.

• Their management of others is just another way of pursing their own ambitions. They eventually lose support, because people notice that.

• They make sure all of the successes of their team are attached to them and the failures are attached to others. People notice that.

• The closer they get to the top, the more visible their game playing becomes; because the game gets more demanding as the field of players begins to narrow and people notice that.

•If they play long enough, they will eventually meet someone on the way they never expected to see; and they will recognize you.

7. Working hard, setting more reasonable goals and determining your own list of priorities for success in your life may well prove, over time, to be a more peaceful, self-enhancing ambition. I like to use this guide for my life:

• Take into account the ethical and moral dimension in all of your decisions;

• Take a minority position if you believe it the right thing to do;

• Take responsibility for the mistakes you make;

• Try to forgive – everyone; even if it’s the same person, every day;

• Do a good job without focusing too much on getting attention and praise. Focus more on your own achievement, your own commitment and your own appraisal of your own work;

Try to be happy with what you are asked to do – or have determined to do;

Live a balanced life. Fill your life to the brim with work, fun, friends, hobbies and your private passions.  Top it all off with a never-ending quest for knowledge, empathy and understanding;

• Say ‘no’ when you have different priorities, a different position, a confident opinion – even when everyone else is saying yes; and,

• Commit to your family, your friends, your profession, your community and your colleagues. If you don’t, who will commit to you?

Whether you begin your climb or not is really is up to you. Before you start, however, ask yourself, What am I wagering? What prize am I pursuing? Is it worth dedicating my whole life to achieving it? When I get to the top (wherever that might be), will that be enough for me? When will I know I’ve gotten there? If I get what I want using trickery and self-promotion, will I ever feel secure in my achievements, no matter what I achieve?

Life with equal parts of fun and responsibility, for me, is far more rewarding than a life of climbing the ladder.

If your mind is set on climbing the ladder, ante up! You might, however, want to live your life, instead, by your own standards, reaching your own goals, using established ethics and more person-focused and less self-focused principles. Never allow pretense or appearance to replace true achievement. You will never know when you have achieved your goals if you do.

Integrity and honest should never be what you sacrifice to reach any goal.

To truly succeed in your life, to get to where you want to go, you might stop feeding your demons and drink in inner peace, insight and honesty, instead. After all, you will ultimately leave this world resting in your own skin.

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7 responses

  1. Pingback: Tools Today – Tool Blog» Blog Archive » There’s more to ladders than you might think

  2. We’re a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your web site offered us with valuable info to work on. You have done an impressive job and our whole community will be thankful to you.

  3. Pingback: Weekly Psych Rounds 15-06-12 « Shrink Things

  4. “If you’re not enough without something; you will never be enough if you get it.” Reminds me of the line, “You can never get enough of what you don’t need.” Sometimes the ladder rungs (or certifications and trainings and specialties) are achieved, it seems, to fill the “I’m not enough” hole.

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