When is it ok to take work home?

This is part 3 in my series on lessons for young professionals from recent movies.

3. Total objectivity is impossible and overrated.

I need to start this post with a disclaimer: Boundaries between teachers and students, therapists and clients, and other parties in professional relationships are important.  In the examples I give in this post, the professionals in question respect the legal and ethical boundaries while allowing themselves to become emotionally invested, to a healthy degree, in the people they are helping.  Philosophers and psychologists tell us that complete objectivity is impossible; we all bring biases and baggage to whatever we approach, including our careers.  That’s not a bad thing, and in the two examples below, I hope to prove that it can even be beneficial under the appropriate circumstances.

First, we return to Anna Kendrick.  In 50/50, she plays a mental health counselor to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, who has cancer.  At first (and I think this has a lot to do with how young she is, and feels) she is overly vigilant about maintaining professionalism, which makes the counseling sessions tense and awkward (and, admittedly, very funny).  A breakthrough occurs when she gives her client a ride home and he gets a chance to see her as a real person with a very messy car.  At this point, she begins to open up about some of her own personal worries, which allows the therapeutic relationship to become natural and unforced.  Ultimately, the counselor learns just as much as the client does, and in the end (AFTER the counseling sessions have ended, I must stress) she gets a really great boyfriend out of the deal.

A similar principle is at work in The Woman in Black, in which Daniel Radcliffe plays a widowed lawyer with a young son.  (If you’re having trouble picturing that, remember that this is a late 19th/early 20th century period piece–people died earlier back then, so they had to get started earlier.)  I believe that his grief for his wife’s death and concern for his son’s safety, far from interfering with his work, endow him with the emotional intelligence and perceptiveness necessarily to solve the spooky case he gets caught up in, which involves the death of a woman and a young boy.

In the next post, we’ll begin to look at some negative examples.