"To heal is to touch with love
that which we previously touched with fear. "
by Steven Levine
I have heard many different definitions of "healing" over the years, doing this work. But when I read this quote by Steven Levine, I thought it was one of the best.
The things that we do in order to survive can cause us to hate ourselves, want to cut off that part of ourselves. But what that part really needs is to be held with compassion and acceptance. We are complicated beings, with shifting and changing roles that, as a whole, create who we are.
Being kind to parts of us that are ashamed, revengeful, or needy doesn't mean that we don't address the problems that they cause, or let them off the hook. For example, If a jealous part of us sabotaged a colleague's work project, then we need to accept responsibility at our work place and do the appropriate repair work. However, in order to make that experience useful to ourselves and not repeat the mistake, we need to look inside and be curious about why the jealous part got the leading role in your work day. Why wasn't the responsible, kind, empathic part of you take charge?
Being accepting, loving, curious, and compassionate towards the ugly parts is just the first step in being able to face a problem, rather than avoid, numb, or attack those parts of ourselves.
I have always loved listening to people's stories about their lives. I used to sit at my grandma's kitchen table as a child and listen to her tell me about her own childhood. Sitting on the edge of my seat, I would savor every moment while she shared little details about the color of a favorite dress, or the names of her friends (Grace, Celeste, Merytl were popular in the 1930s. She would be chopping vegetables or setting the table, letting her mind wander around, while her hands stayed busy. My love of hearing about people's lives turned into a career. Listening is a powerful way to connect with someone, and I am lucky to be able to do what I do.
You may be familiar with Story Corps, an independent organization that travels around the U.S. recording real life stories, started in 2003. It's mission is "to preserve and share humanity's stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world." Periodically I look at their website, watch a few stories, usually the stories make me laugh or cry or both. This morning I came across a story about an older couple who shared how they worked together and supported one another. It's a story about persevering and being vulnerable and the power of relationships. We could learn a lot from Larry and Eileen.