When we’re sitting with someone who is struggling, confused, or in emotional pain, it is important that we listen carefully to what they say. But at times even more essential than the words they use is what they are feeling, sensing, or imagining, but not able to access consciously. That which we cannot access we cannot articulate, and that which we cannot articulate we cannot make sense of. It is difficult to discover the meaning of inaccessible experience, as this meaning is buried in a secret place.
This goes for ourselves as well, where the “other” is not only those persons external to us, but the inner other in all its forms, appearing as lost feeling, denied grief, unacknowledged narcissism, blocked rage, unearthed joy, causeless bliss, and the entirety of our unlived experience.
One of the real gifts of our embodied presence—that capacity to attune to the moment-to-moment unfolding the other’s subjectivity—is to help them access dimensions of self that have either fallen outside conscious awareness or never had a chance to come into it in the first place.
If a certain emotion, way of being, or way of perceiving was not made room for in our families, cultures, or religions, it becomes lost in a faraway space, in a liminal, in-between realm that we cannot quite reach. From this liminal dimension it calls out, comes by way of dream and symptom, to find us, not to harm but out of its longing to return home.
By providing sanctuary where none was originally provided, by making room for breath where no breath was to be found, we step into a world where it is safe to feel again.
The verbal dimension of our exchange with another is important, while at times the nonverbal is more alive, more relevant, and more meaningful. We need not come to some fantasied resolution or takes sides, but only to remain in awe.
To provide an environment where the lost pieces of the soul, the forgotten aspects of the heart, and the unremembered dimensions of the psyche can return home… it is a gift of compassion and mercy that we can impart to ourselves, one another, and to life everywhere.
My most recent book – The Path Is Everywhere: Uncovering the Jewels Hidden Within You – is now available
The next book, A Healing Space: Befriending Yourself in Difficult Times, will be published by Sounds True
The next event is The Healing Shame Retreat: Spiritual Awakening and Transforming the Core Wound of Unworthiness, April 24-29, 2019 at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado, with co-facilitator Jeff Foster