I am sometimes asked what my own coping mechanisms are and how it feels to be surrounded by so much suffering, to spend sessions listening to distress and sorrow, to see and hear people at the worst lows of life. When I shrug and say it doesn’t affect me, or that I am used to it, I understand I could appear as somewhat apathetic. I am fully aware that my composure and ease with the topic may, to an outsider, imply that I am proficient in switching off or that I have become desensitised to the suffering of others. This is not the case.
The reason I am able to sit in these rooms, at the other end of the phone or on these virtual meetings, is because what I am privy to is not the pain of the person in front of me. It is their healing. You cannot help others heal by focusing only on their darkness. These people I share space with, who are at their rawest, who need tissues, deep breaths, time to stand up and walk around in order to move pain through and from their systems – they are all healing. This is not a gift many are called to witness. I am able to breathe love and acknowledgement over the inner parts of these people, parts that have been hidden and denied for years. No matter how comfortable or uncomfortable the moment may be, one can never lose sight of the preciousness of these experiences.
Where my struggle really springs to life, where you will find my soul backed against a wall and stretched to withstand the torrent of emotions, is when I am outside of sessions. It is when I am removed from the cocoon of close family and safe friendships, from people who are actively deciding to make their lives better, choosing healing and recovery as their way of being. The really damaged people are the ones you meet daily and who have zero intention of healing. These are the ones of whom we should be extremely wary, not those in therapy.
The injured souls and psyches that I see around me every day, can quite literally floor me if I am too much a part of them. They are there at social functions, the local shops, within the most seemingly innocuous of conversations. As someone who is able to not only witness but also to feel the vicissitude of body language, or the most minuscule hint of undergrowth in a person’s choice of words – the regular world can be a cacophony of much rudimentary chaos.
How I deal with sessions is the easy part. The self-care, boundaries, meditations and all manner of resources that I have are instead reserved for the everyday. Yes, dealing with pain is tough, however, being mired in a lack of healing is tougher.