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Posted By Opening the Heart


 "I am an orphan, on God's highway...

I have no mother, no father, no sister, no brother.

I am an orphan girl,"           Emmylou Harris

 I have been seeing "Richard" in my practice for a little over a year. (I have his permission to tell this story knowing I made name and significant circumstance changes to protect confidentiality). He came to see me because he wanted to be a better husband and father and teacher of his 6th grade science class. He knew that, in spite of best intentions, he failed miserably again and again to live up to his own wish to be more patient, loving, and kind to the people in his life he cared most about. He was pretty harsh in his own self judgements about his failures. I knew that his father, an alcoholic who had repeatedly beaten Richard, had died about 10 years ago. His mother had never been able to consistently hold him, protect him, love him when he was growing up. She was now in a nursing home, losing her cognitive focus and, at times, confusing Richard with his brother.

 During our session last week, Richard started right off saying he wanted to talk about Carol, his first real love, his freshman year of college. He recalled, with saddened voice, "how hard I fell" and how the deep love he felt was never returned. He broke eye contact and said it was like an ache, a yearning to be held - "not hugged but enfolded" by her. He said "It feels like the longing of a little boy". And, as his eyes filled up, I realized that this was the first time he had ever expressed deep feeling in a session....

He became very quiet for several minutes. Then he said "I can't believe I didn't start by telling you about my mother - she's dying". I waited, then said "Two deep rivers of grief coming together as one". And tears came slowly down each cheek. Then he enfolded himself in his own arms and I suggested that watching his mother die might also mean that any fantasy of being held and loved - enfolded - might also be dying. As he embraced himself, and cried, he asked, oh so softly, "Would you hold me?"

I held him and he sobbed and asked how he could have ever given something he never received. I agreed with his wisdom and his courage in facing his broken heart. Making the descent to the broken heart is the beginning of healing.

Then we talked. I told him that there was only ever one person who really knew exactly how he needed to be "enfolded", loved: not Carol, not his mother, not even his father, but Richard himself. And I was in awe of that simple brilliant self-enfolding as the beginning of learning to bring kindness to his own Great Beating Heart. It was the beginning of wisdom and being able to be kind and loving to others in his life.

With Love and Respect, Jon



2 Comment(s):
jon berenson said...
Dear Lin, Thank you for taking the time to write. I know what you mean about wishing there was someone to hold you. I've found at the OTH workshop that sitting with others who understand, can be a powerfully healing experience. Warm Regards, Jon
May 14, 2012 04:50:21
Lin said...
In reading this story, tears came to my eyes. At one time, I thought i was feeling Richard's pain but today I know I am feeling my pain. It sits inside me from when i was a little girl. I wish there was someone to hold me. I try holding myself.
April 25, 2012 01:30:25
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