Sixteen Poems About Therapy
HEALING HAPPENS IN SILENCE
That long, rich, thick, gray, quiet pause
between client and therapist
when no one is trying to perform,
and truth surfaces
like an old humpback whale,
coming up from the depths
to fill her lungs with air
before submerging to sing her song again.
when I am working hard.
when no one is doing the work.
At the end of an hour of hard, brilliant work
I am exhausted.
At the end of six hours of healing
I am ready to go out dancing.
Clients are unconditional;
they pay whether I work or heal.
But the more often I can let
The Goddess of Healing
use me to do Her work,
the less evening TV I watch.
IN THE BEGINNING, AND IN THE END: UNKNOW.
The second step I must take in doing healing
is to unknow my client,
so that I can witness their emergence
from out of the womb of their mystery.
To take this step I must unknow all of psychology,
and unknow all of my hard won experience.
Then I can receive them,
I can catch them like a midwife catches a new born child,
still damp with their birth juice.
I can receive them as brand new beings
eyes blinking at the wonder of this world.
The first step I must take in healing
is to unknow myself.
Whoever I thought I was,
step aside for this midwife, Mother Healing,
to come through me and do her work.
This effortless unknowing, stepping aside,
takes merely a lifetime to learn,
and is gone, to be replaced by knowing,
in the instant that I perform brilliantly
as a therapist.
FACE TO FACE WITH A CLIENT
there is nothing to do.
New therapists, scared therapists, angry therapists, bored therapists
get uncomfortable doing nothing.
So they intervene, interpret, analyze, guide, direct, hypnotize, plan,
help the client get in touch with his feelings,
help the client clarify her thoughts,
on and on and on,
doing what they have been taught to do.
No one can teach how to "not do" therapy.
Not doing therapy happens between the two of you,
in a way which heals you both.
ever so slow.
Just staying with your client.
Pull back from being clever, warm, defensive, brilliant.
Breath by breath, just stay with her.
Then sometimes, if you are slow enough,
the room becomes thick, with this tender, loving, gentle energy.
And finally, She sees that it is safe enough
for all her wounds to come forth;
to be seen, touched, accepted.
And for a moment,
she no longer has to shut down her heart.
WHEN IN THE CAVE OF THE CLIENT'S INNER WORLD
move slowly and fluidly,
and allow your client to show you around.
The Therapist grabs the flashlight,
and heads off into the darkness,
on a guided tour of what she expects to find,
while the client stumbles awkwardly behind.
The Healer hands the flashlight to the client
and follows respectfully
behind the client
as they both discover
uncharted subterranean waterfalls.
IF, "TO EVERY THING THERE IS A SEASON"
then why are we all working so hard to improve ourselves?
"Make this depression go away."
"Make my sex life glorious, or at least not miserable."
"Make me lovable. Make me thin."
"Make me happy."
"Wake me up to life. Give me peace. Set me free."
And there are therapists willing to promise to accomplish
all these tasks, fulfill all these dreams.
I say, " Learn to take life on life's terms."
Yes- there is a time for depression.
Yes- sex is not always a joy.
Yes- you feel unlovable.
Yes- your body is your body.
Yes- rage, sadness, hurt.
Yes- anxiety, discontent, bondage.
All things shall pass,
that is the good news and the bad news.
There is a timing in their passing
which is not under our ego's control.
All you can do
is begin to love yourself
no matter what else is put on your plate.
you may be a cool dark pool
into which your overtaxed clients
can safely dive as deep as they dare.
Perhaps in the next moment
You are at their throat
shocked and aghast
grabbing them just before
they plunge onto the jagged rocks below.
Can you let go to the unknown
and in the same breath
hold on for dear life?
Then you may have the capacity for the work.
THE FIRST STEP IN THE HEALING PROCESS
is to fall on your face.
First therapy must fail.
That can take years with some clients.
But be patient,
eventually your therapeutic expertise will falter,
and you will lose that battle for control.
You will get lost, confused, annoyed, furious, desperate.
Finally, you will surrender in abject despair.
Ah, at last the therapy is over,
the healing can begin.
DISILLUSIONMENT IS A NECESSITY.
We must pierce the illusion
which lead us to become therapists in the first place.
Not one of us came to this job pure of heart.
In secret recesses, unacknowledged by our surface self,
we hoped to cure Mother of her unceasing criticality,
we hoped to take the drink out of Daddy's hand,
we hoped to unite them both, arms around each other,
eyes finally filled with unconditional love,
acceptance and admiration
for us, their very, very good little children.
Each client picks up another fragment of that illusion,
and we hope against hope that, fragment by fragment
we can patch together the pastel past which never can be.
We must utterly fail, and face the despair and bitterness
which comes from recognizing what a futile,
ridiculous, and commonplace dream truly motivated
what you thought was such a noble life goal.
Utterly fail, grieve, and then accept that you are what you are,
a therapist trying to help, but with suspect motives.
With some of the delusions stripped away,
you are now ready to see, as best you can,
the clients as they really are.
STRUGGLE AND SOFTEN.
It is such a paradox, we need to do both.
We are what we do.
Only through Action taken in this moment,
can we define who we are, and who we are not.
We can't just passively lie down as lambs alongside the lion.
We have to enter the fray, and stand up for our truth,
discriminating and slicing away with the sword named, "Not This- But That."
Again and again, we have to choose love over indifference,
right action over unconsciousness, discipline over sloth.
The enemy is within- judgment, self hatred, indolence, arrogance.
And the enemy is outside of us- other people's rejection, abuse, insensitivity.
These enemies are never finally vanquished.
Our shadows, both the ones inside and the ones outside,
always have something to teach us about courage and humility.
But, at times, we have to hold that sword very lightly.
We must wield it with humor, compassion, softening.
Without a gentle, light touch, we fight injustice and in the process become it.
We choose love and end up hating.
We fight for truth and thereby create a web of lies.
So we must soften:
soften to our imperfections, to our passions,
soften to our hopes, to our failures,
and, soften finally even to our death.
EVERY GRADUATING PSYCHOLOGY STUDENT
should be given a cat.
Not one of those warm purring lap cats,
but a fiercely independent, noisy, bossy, arrogant cat,
who doesn't give a damn how many degrees you have,
or how many clients love you.
The kind of cat that, grudgingly,
eats your extra fancy canned cat food,
and then throws it up on your bed
when you leave him alone for a weekend.
This cat would remind you that you are not a god,
you are not a very special,
unique, superior, insightful, wise sage,
but rather you are an underling,
a rather minor servant
in the Pantheon of which your cat is the presiding deity.
EACH YEAR I GET INCREASINGLY MORE SOCIALLY
I've spent decades underground,
seeking always lower water,
seeping underneath foundations,
through cracks in seemingly unbroken facades,
always heading for the darkest corners.
Direct sunlight hurts my mole eyes.
While chatting about the rain, or the national debt,
or the sale down at Macy's,
I get distracted.
I keep hearing the cries
of deserted children
lost in the night.
I NEED SOMEONE TO NAG.
I need someone to whine to, to be obnoxious with, to try to control.
I need someone to tell me my breath stinks.
These are essential human needs.
Some of my colleagues have no deep friendships,
they have no intimate mates,
they either are being therapist,
or are alone.
They cherish so much the adoration and power of the therapeutic relationship that no merely mortal relationship can compare.
Other don't have intimates,
they have an unpaid practice of wounded partners,
whom they can nurse back into health.
I have been alone, and I have been a nurse,
And I know that, without whole healthy equals,
partners, lovers and friends,
I cannot do healing, only a bastardized form of therapy
which serves to swell my self image
at the expense of the health of my clients.
THERAPY MAY MAKE THINGS WORSE,
but in an exquisitely poignant way.
Before therapy the saddest thing people grieved was their own story.
but, if our client's succeed in opening themselves
they will know a suffering unlike anything imagined
in their neurosis.
That old suffering was comfortable in its familiarity.
After therapy, they might find themselves bursting into tears
while walking along the banks of a polluted river,
in front of a fading flower,
seeing the haunted silent eyes of a starving child
stare out at them from the 6:00 news,
hearing the sound of helicopters,
or they may weep,
at nothing they can ever quite put words to.
LIFE GIVES US MUCH MORE THAN WE CAN HANDLE.
It can be merciless in teaching
its one inescapable lesson: Let go...
and yes, even to that one last thing
that you hold most dear
and you simply cannot bear to part with
yes, even to that,
even to your last breath,
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