Monday, July 21, 2008

Welcoming the Light

As a psychotherapist who has somehow managed to develop a specialty in trauma work~~no conscious decision, this~~I routinely hear stories of sexual harm, beatings, witnessed murders, accidents and disasters, and wounding words. I have become skilled in listening intently without absorbing the other’s pain. I am certainly moved by the stories I hear~~ often deeply so~~but seldom do I become confused about whose trauma it is. I don’t make another’s pain my own.

The ability to be fully present yet unbound by the suffering before me is sometimes tricky, but after many years, I find it most often manageable. It is also essential. Folks heal, not through my collapsing into their pain, but by having a steady someone to walk with into the darkest places of their lives. They need me to be quite clear about this distinction. And as I said, I usually am.

However, occasionally someone comes into my life whose trauma goes well beyond the average soul piercings. These are folks who have sustained abuse of mammoth proportions. The world in which they were reared was so pervasively perverse that it left damage of a particularly all-inclusive kind. Their spirits seem shattered and their sense of self tenuous. Disorganization of this degree often leaves the simplest coping skills just out of reach.

And my own coping strategies can be overwhelmed through witnessing such devastation. I’m pushed to look into the face of a horror that is far easier not to see. Such experiences require me to use~~and to welcome~~all my resources simply to retain, and in some cases regain, my equilibrium.

After a session this week in which secrets were shared and the depth of the struggle to function laid bare, I found a heaviness had crept into my spirit. I recognized what was happening to me, but couldn’t seem to shake it. And a busy evening ahead was not going to allow me the time I needed to work it through, to let it go. Or so I thought.

As often happens, I was given exactly what I needed, this time in the form of a poem that came my way early that night~~Check, by James Stephens. The rich imagery describes a growing darkness that is not, however, able to obliterate the light of a single candle. I had my metaphor.

With that image, my focus changed. I remembered my own spark and chose to expand its brightness once again. I welcomed the larger Light into my own in order to dispel a darkness that, though cast on another’s flame many years ago, sought now to cover mine as well. And my candle grew bolder, more robust. I felt myself revivify and slough off the sludge I had unwittingly absorbed.

Long ago I realized I would never comprehend why some folks experience such grave misfortune while others do not. I also accepted that there is truly no reason I should understand, given that I am a soul immersed within her own phase of this journey. However, while such large issues are beyond me, I do know that our task is to align ourselves with the Light at each juncture. And I trust that when we do, we give that Radiance a greater access to our psyches and to our world.

Professionally, my job is to welcome the Light into the room. The experience I’ve gained over the years, the specific techniques I’ve acquired, and my intuitive sensibilities can all be seen as methods for enlarging the opening for Light through increasing the capacity to receive it. And when that Beam touches and illuminates the darkness, shattered spirits begin to heal, reuniting with that enduring essence within which was never harmed to begin with, just covered temporarily by muck.

The Light is there waiting, always. Our job is simply to open to it. Such is my belief and my experience.


Loanne Marie

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