I was working with a couple terrorized by demons of severe trauma experienced as children, re-inflicted on each other. They lashed out at each other trying to cause as much pain on the other as they felt themselves.
And I dove in head first with barely a safety line in tow.
Utterly uncertain that I would be effective or helpful.
In a zone. Half unconscious.
using everything I've learned, making stuff up along the way.
Tracking them to see what worked;
stabbed with pangs of regret and doubt when it didn't.
Moving in and out of panic and beautiful poignancy.
The session focused on de-escalating the husband, he with a history of violence, while
monitoring the fear and the fury in her eyes who suffered the violence.
Trying to stay empathic to his pain, while
not forsaking the pained by pushing him
to acknowledge the pain he has caused.
He moved between ferocious disappointment that everyone let him down and his unbearable shame that he in turn disappointed others in ways nigh unforgivable.
My heart ached for him.
Holding both his suffering and his crime was unbelievably difficult
and only possible for me because of the painful work
of accepting my own crimes and broken parts.
It triggered in me a deep sense of sadness, shame, acceptance, and compassion.
Then tenderness, for both of us.
I stayed with him,
brushing aside the hurtful parts, mining for the hurt.
Digging barehanded for shrapnel lodged in his heart, without anesthesia.
Phantom pain from my own shrapneled heart burning in resonance.
When something did work, it didn't feel like I could take credit. I'm so aware of how often the very same acts fail with someone else or in some other moment. The only conclusion I come back to again and again leaves me with a deep gratitude for the angel of therapeutic healing that blessed us that day and for the courage of my patients who grace us to co-create these magical moments greater than anything we could imagine or will alone.