I was reminded tonight of an experience I had earlier in the year — kind of a strange but cool experience that I just never took the time to share:
As part of my practicum classes we have to go for personal counseling. I took my second practicum in the summer. I started my personal counseling in November… You gotta know that I’m a go-getter. When something needs to be dealt with, I examine it, I think about, and I deal with it. I don’t shy away from things.
Well, except for those four months between my summer class and the start of counseling…
I knew exactly what I needed to talk to my counselor about; I knew it was something that I needed to face, but I really, really didn’t want to. The thought of it filled me with anxiety and all sorts of other uncomfortable thoughts. Oh goodie, can I go and share all of those uncomfortable thoughts with someone else? Really? Can I?!
But that natural inner drive took over — or maybe it was the mandatory counseling requirement for my classs — and I went for the counseling. And it was good. I talked. I felt comfortable for the most part. I recognized (counselor-in-training that I am) that some of the uncomfortable feelings that I would occasionally have towards my counselor were about what we were talking about and not about her. Things were all going well.
Then one evening I happened to run into my counselor in Superstore. If you’ve got a good counselor, it is up to the client to choose to acknowledge (or not acknowledge) the counselor when you are out in public. (If you’ve got a bad counselor, they will ask you on a date and share your life story at their holiday gatherings or open mic night at the local bar.) Since we were walking right towards each other I couldn’t just avoid her. Besides, I didn’t feel the need to avoid her. Instead, I smiled at her and said a quick “hi” as we passed (and tried to glance down at her cart, since it’s always interesting to see what people are picking up in the pharmaceutical aisles…) and went on my way.
It was a very short encounter and I was finished at Superstore within a few minutes. However, almost immediately after I left the store I started to feel something. It was as if my face was tingling — like I was having a physical response to our little meeting.
You see, up until that time, I’d only ever seen my counselor in her little office. That was the only context I knew her in. I knew she had a husband and a family, but whenever she came to mind, it was always a picture of her in that little office.
But then I saw her walking around Superstore. She was out in the world. But she was also that lady in the little office — in that little office where I told her all of my most frustrating and fearful secrets. She took those all in in that little office and then SHE WALKED OUT INTO THE WORLD! She walked out into the world knowing my story — with a little piece of me in her! And not just any piece — the dark, nasty pieces. The pieces I was so afraid to let out that it took me four months to get up the nerve to talk to someone! And there she was, just walking along, getting her bandaids, with that nasty piece of me now as a part of her.
How difficult it is to be vulnerable. How scary it is. Not only to be honest with ourselves, but to share it with another. And then they take it and it somehow becomes a part of them and it’s out there in the world in the mind and heart and body of another. Just walking around. Out of your reach. Out of your control.
That night, it literally made me tingle. I don’t know what that response was all about. It’s like I felt simultaneously anxious and alive. It was scary to think that my story was out there with someone else, but I also know that sharing all of that stuff was a good, good thing and a healing thing. And doesn’t healing imply pain at some point along the way?
I don’t want to run from vulnerability. And I want to be okay with pieces of me going out into the world — having my story become a part of another. I think that’s where we will all find our greatest hope and our truest healing in the middle of our deepest pain… not that it will be easy, of course…