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A few weeks ago, I read a superb article by the late Mark Lawrence, M.D.  Dr. Lawrence’s article spoke to me for several reasons, the most important reason being the fact that he touches upon the matter of who it is in a therapeutic relationship that actually does the healing: Does the therapist heal the client, or does the client heal himself or herself? (Dr. Lawrence’s article: http://www.centerforhealingandimagery.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/emdr-ego-state-psychotherapy.html) 

As I have mentioned in my blog posts, I have been engaged for about thirty years in the process of trying to heal from childhood abuses and from spousal abuse. My two most effective therapists have been the therapist I saw from 1980-1983, my very first therapist, and my present therapist, the person I have been working with for the past two years. The therapists I saw between 1984-2010 were generally helpful in some way, even if only to be contacts when I needed reality checks.  A few, such as the art therapist I saw, were instrumental in helping me build my self-confidence, and others were there for me as I made my way through my graduate programs.  Only three of the sixteen therapists I have seen were what I might term sub-competent.  I learned from all therapists I saw, though, however competent or incompetent they seemed to be.   

My very first therapist was a family therapist who specialized in working with children who had been traumatized.  Toward the end of her career, she left the large public agency where she had worked and began a private practice in a small clinic. At that point, she began seeing adults in addition to children. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been her client because she was open to me, met me on my own terms, and had utmost faith in my ability to find my own path to healing.  Her trust in my ability to heal and in my ability to find my way through the process was absolutely essential in supporting my will to live and my drive to heal.  Without her accompanying me, I might have given up the struggle.   

I credit my first therapist, in fact, for saving my life because I had seriously considered suicide.  Any person who has endured a childhood of sexual and psychological abuse and twenty years of being victimized in a marriage can no doubt relate to what I say.  By the time she retired, I had gained the self-confidence and will to live that I needed in order to raise my daughter as a single parent and prepare myself for a career.   

By the same token, my present therapist is also there for me as I heal.  Like my first therapist, my present therapist has faith in my ability to do the work necessary for my own healing, and she witnesses my process and is there for me if I need her direction.  Like my first therapist, she does not impose her own “method” or techniques upon me unless I ask her to do that.  And I know that if I ask her for specific help, she will give it to me.  When I ask for guidance, she guides me gently and with humility, not pretending to have all the answers or to have a monopoly on wisdom.  As she has told me, each person who heals adds good, healing energy to the Universe, and that makes our world a better place for everyone.  I believe this. 

So back to my question: Does the therapist heal the client, or does the client heal herself?  My answer:  The client heals herself as the therapist guides, witnesses, supports the process, and looks on with compassion.   

The above is my answer.  You may have a different answer to the question I pose.  If you do, please write to me and let me know your answer.  Here is my direct e-mail address:  jeanfairgrieve15@gmail.com.  Therapy with a competent, ethical, compassionate therapist trained to facilitate his or her clients’ healing from trauma damage can help you undo the damage that was done to you and can help you build the new life that you so richly deserve.  

As people told me after I caught my husband abusing our daughter, reported him to the police, and filed for divorce thirty years ago: The best revenge is to heal yourself and live a good life.” I would add this, also:  Don’t let the bastards keep you down!  Rise up and live the life you have always wanted to live!  A part of the “rising up” most certainly can be engaging in effective psychotherapy. 

In addition to the words above, here are some words by Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894).  In this last stanza from his poem “The Chambered Nautilus,” Holmes, in describing the life process of the little sea creature, tells us how we might grow and rebuild our lives: 

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul, 

        As the swift seasons roll!        

        Leave thy low-vaulted past! 

    Let each new temple, nobler than the last, 

        Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast, 

        Till thou at length art free, 

Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!        

   

Thank you, Mr. Holmes!

 

 

 

 

  

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I did it again, missed attending church on Easter.  I had every intention of attending the service at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral here in Portland.  I wanted to hear the choir and the huge Rosales organ belt out “Jesus Christ Is Risen Today,” but it didn’t happen.  I had even set my alarm to 6:30 so I could get up in plenty of time, eat my breakfast that included hot cross buns made by Mrs. Safeway, and catch my bus.  But it didn’t happen.  Because I had awakened at 3 a.m. with a backache and had spent time and energy turning my mattress over and reassembling my bed, I was too tired to get out of bed when my alarm went off.  Thus, despite my best intentions, my Easter morning at Trinity Cathedral didn’t happen.

How did I feel about this, this nonhappening?  I felt sad and disappointed in myself, for I had let myself down one more time. Chalk up one more Sunday morning of failing to catch the bus and failing to attend church. Nevertheless, I ate my Easter breakfast, including Mrs. Safeway’s buns with the lemon crosses on top and the candied fruit inside, and I watched “Meet the Press.” Appropriate to the day, the discussion centered on the intermixing of religion and politics.  As I watched, I thought about the distance we have come since that week of Christ’s crucifixion and subsequent resurrection from the dead.

I thought about all the twists and turns in the road that we call “organized Christianity.”  And I wondered how–or if– our poor old world will ever reconcile differences and get back to honoring such basic principles of social mores and morals as those set down in the Ten Commandments and the Gospels. After all, if the participants on “Meet the Press” can’t acknowledge with respect the real and basic ties between Judaism and Christianity and between Catholicism and Protestantism, then how on earth can the many divisions within Christianity be reconciled? And on a grander scale—how can members of all the world’s religions come to terms of peace with one another?

By the time “Meet the Press” was over, I was angry over what I had seen and heard on the program, and I was also sad because nobody involved in the discussion had acknowledged the presence of the “elephant in room,” the matter of reconciling differences in order to work for the common good of humanity. An elephant was there, of course, represented by certain politicians, and that elephant received a lot of attention and care.  But the other elephant, the one nobody appeared to notice, languished, tired and emaciated and sad, in the corner, totally ignored by the speakers. Yes, setting aside individual selfish interests to work for the common good of humanity was obviously not a serious consideration for the speakers gathered around the table on “Meet the Press” this Easter Sunday. 

When the program had concluded, I knew that I had to do something to honor the poor, neglected elephant in the corner and this beautiful Easter morning.  I knew it was too late to catch a bus to church, but I  knew that there was a woman in my apartment complex who also had planned to attend a church service but who had not felt up to it. Recalling the words “Whenever two or three are gathered in my name. . .,” I called her and asked her if she would join me in a makeshift Easter service.  She agreed.

Thus, with the help of my Book of Common Prayer, I did my best to construct a short liturgical service appropriate to the day and copied the pages from my book for my friend so she and I could read the responses together. We ended our service with the “Prayer Attributed to Saint Frances,” a prayer that I believe is as important as the Ten Commandments and the Gospels in guiding human behavior:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Upon arriving home, I reflected on this Easter morning experience–on the television discussion, my feelings about it,  and on the  makeshift liturgical service.  “What would it take before people, politicians especially, opened their eyes to the plight of the elephant in that room, the elephant waiting in the corner to be noticed and to be nurtured and nourished and tended?”  The answer that came to me was so simple and yet so powerful:  “Lord, make us instruments of your peace . . . ”