Pieces of Me

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…

Posted in Life & Faith, Psychology, School | 6 Comments

6 Responses to Pieces of Me

  1. Toni says:

    It’s quite a scary thing to trust someone with you’re deepest, sometimes darkest secrets. I’m sure having them in an abstract place outside your normal life and circle of friends/church people (not necessarily the same thing) helps a little, and them having a fairly strict set of rules about confidentiality likewise. So seeing that person in your normal living space would naturally be a challenge, suggesting that you aren’t sharing things in a secret place at all. I wonder how you’ll feel when you next meet her, and whether you’ll still be able to be open with her as readily?

    Some time back – actually for some significant time now – I’ve been thinking about meeting up with one of the other guys at the church with a view to confessing and sharing openly the issues that I struggle with, hopes and aspirations, fears and weaknesses. I’m not after a trained counselor, but a brother I can share and confess with. It’s never happened because I’ve not found someone I actually trust, who I believe would not go home and share my secrets with his wife, with the other guys in the church, would pressure me into taking certain courses of action. If they were remote and separated from my daily life then that gap of trust might be a little narrower… but they are not.

    And writing this is useful because it makes me think about how I might deal with things so I DID trust them, although I’m also considering looking for someone removed from my normal life.

    That physical reaction was entirely reasonable. In some ways it might have been as if the person walking toward you were carrying a weapon capable of destroying the Dixie you have successfully been in front of people. In some ways they were, but that would not necessarily have meant that the real Dixie would have been any less loved or cherished or respected. But from my own example, I understand how hard it can be to see that image broken.

    On an entirely different but amusing note, in ’97 I had a company medical before being offered a job. I selected the doctor with the most masculine looking surname, only to meet an attractive blond woman just a couple of years older than me. It was the usual check up: arms=2, legs=2, testicles=2 and please cough etc. That’s fine, medical detachment and all that (working both ways). However about 2 weeks later I bumped into her in Tesco, stood right behind her in the queue. We both carefully didn’t recognise each other and all was well with the world.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Toni.

    I understand your dilemma about finding someone that you can really share with. I hope you can find someone you trust, outside your circle if that is what’s needed. And maybe a spiritual director or counselor would be good? Sometimes that saftey net of confidentiality is what’s needed to be really open. If you get a good one they do more listening and very little answering/dictating what to do. In fact, they shouldn’t really do dictating at all. Although, in the past I’ve really wanted someone to tell me what to do/what will fix things, rather than take ownership and direction in my own life.

    Unless we go back to Manitoba, I likely will never see that counselor again. Though I have thought about doing some skype sessions again with her, if needed, precisely BECAUSE she knows my story. In many ways, I’d rather stick with her then spread more of that stuff around. 🙂

    As my own aside, I think that when I do my personal counseling for Practicum 3 & 4, I’m going to pick an issue that’s a bit lighter and more fun to explore — like why I wake up every night an hour after I go to bed disoriented and often seeing things in the room or why I can’t stand to look at unnatural but uniform patterns on skin. That stuff would be fun to look out as I just can’t seem to figure them out. 🙂

  3. Angela J says:

    Very interesting post, Dixie. Leaves me quite curious to know how my clients might experience an encounter with me in the community. From the point of view of someone who witnesses the stories of others, and helps them to process their stories, I have to say that I never view a client’s story as having become part of me. When a client is able to share parts of themselves or their experience that they have denied, numbed, disconnected, dissociated from, then in that moment their story is not becoming part of me, is has started to become an integrated part of them. If there is anything that becomes a part of me, it is their courage to be vulnerable, their humanity, and through their courage I am sometimes able to connect with those disconnected parts of myself that I also need to welcome as part of myself.

    If you haven’t read any of his stuff before, I would really encourage you to read Jean Vanier — Becoming Human, or Befriending the Stranger are two of his books that are very thoughtful and they have helped shape my counselling and my personal life.

    And if the counsellor could gently challenge? If you do some more counselling, I would encourage you to share and process the experience you have written about in this post 🙂 I suspect that integrating your struggle to be vulnerable may be more meaningful to you (and your future clients) in the long run than knowing why a skin pattern bothers you 🙂 But that’s JUST my opinion…

  4. I really appreciate your comments, Ange, especially considering that you do this every day!

    It is interesting that you, as the counselor, don’t see the client’s story as becoming part of you. And I like the point you make that when we share with another it becomes integrated IN US. That’s a good way of putting it. For me though, as the client, when I saw the counselor in Superstore, *I* saw myself — or that bit of myself that I shared — as being a part of her; she was walking around with this knowledge of me in her head. (Also, I wonder if it might be our individual personalities or our theoretical approaches that make me see stories becoming part of others — I am affected by others and their stories in many different ways (emotional, spiritual, sometimes even physically) and am also drawn to existential theory and narrative therapy which tends to be a little heavier/deeper/more ethereal than other theories. Thoughts?!)

    And, yes, I LOVE Jean Vanier. Becoming Human had a huge influence on me about five years ago and helped me in a lot of ways and changed my perspective in many positive ways. I haven’t heard of Befriending the Stranger, I”ll have to look that one up.

    We’ll have to see what it comes out when I start counseling again. I have thought a lot over the past five or so years and feel that I am very intentional about being vulnerable in so much of my life, that I think it might be good to look at something different. This skin thing, for example, might give me a better understanding of pathology and where these seemingly inexplainable phobias come from.

    Alright, my two cents. Hope that makes some sense. I am currently exhausted and am making lunch and Olivia keeps talking to me though I told her that I needed quiet for a few minutes…

  5. Sandra Chicoine says:

    Hi Dixie. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us. Maybe this is a different way to look at this. When I exposed (shared) my deep dark secrets and brought them out into the light, the devil couldn’t condemn me anymore about those secrets. Then I felt a sense of more freedom in my life. I believe God doesn’t want us to have secrets because He knows what it can do to us. I’m really happy for you! I believe secrets are like stumbling blocks that need to get out of the way to reveal the truth or what’s really going on in our lives. God wants them exposed, but the devil wants them kept hidden. Yes, fear can keep you from sharing them but when you do, what a relief! I felt much lighter! Hope this helps you.

  6. I absolutely agree, Sandy! Secrets have much power over us and mean that we are, in at least some ways/areas, hiding who we are. It is not always easy and not every part of who we are needs to be shared with the world, but it is important that we not hide who we other — otherwise we wll never know what it means to truly be accepted.

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