Still Life

At Therapist's Responses to the Challenge of Change

Excerpts from PART III - Holding On...Letting Go

Chapter 6 - "If Only..." THE SEASONS OF MOURNING
One Day Action Workshop (page 108)

Like every life, every death affects our community and no two deaths are experienced in the same way by those who are left behind. In each life, this one death occurs amid a history of loss, connection, coping strategies, and defences. It is a bumpy ride. Our journey from the “dis-membering” of life, through the passage of mixed feelings—strength and weakness, loneliness and companionship—may at some point in our own time lead to a “re-membering” of our relationship with the person whose physical presence we grieve. Each death and bereavement takes its own path in the lives of those who mourn.

Certain contemporary forms of conflict resolution are based upon the belief that an incident of conflict arises not simply between two people but in the context of the community in which it occurred. The rupture breaks the circle of connection and the community is wounded. When that wound is repaired with openness, understanding, and renewal, the community is also healed. We might say the same thing of deaths and losses: they often carry unresolved experiences that can bring dis-ease and longing into lives lived years later. These wounds can be mended. Experiential techniques from psychodrama and sociometry can help heal the special pain of wished-for experiences, and lay some of these longings to rest.

Sometimes people find themselves inexplicably stuck in their mourning. The model I use, and the workshops that have emerged from it, pinpoint where mourning can falter and help people find more of a free flow. The workshops give people the opportunity to honour their own journey and to encounter any lingering obstacles to their re-membering.


Chapter 7 - Creative Neutrality REFLECTIONS ON FORGIVENESS
(page 121)

In chapter 5, we took stock. We looked at the people who inhabit our lives and placed some in the inspirational circle, some in the holders of the old, and a few amongst the companions. We also saw others who are not in our daily life now, but who occupy a very large place in our internal emotional life. They may have wounded us in the past, and we may still resent—or even hate—them. These are the abusing parents, the abandoning partners, the betraying friends, the unfaithful lovers. We may have decided not to give them house room, but still they go on occupying mental space and emotional energy as we play and replay memories that cause us pain and suffering. On a personal level, the culture around us gives us strong messages about how we should be managing these undercover bonds: “Never forget—you can never trust men.” “Rise above it.” “Don’t think about it.” “She didn’t mean it.” “Move on!” “Forget it, it’s in the past.”

Such messages illustrate how change on this level—moving on from past injuries—is very difficult. It is difficult enough for individuals, but similarly powerful messages can be embedded on societal levels too, remaining culturally potent for very long periods of time, even hundreds of years.

(page 131)
Those of us who have experienced wounding at the hands of someone else have a deep desire to clear the toxic residue of that relationship from our minds and hearts. There are many ways to find that freedom and that catharsis, to travel unencumbered. We may be drawn to spiritual communities whose outlook brings us a healthy detachment from old patterns of thought and belief. We may find renewal in relationships that repair our experience—a new partner who is respectful, or a mentor who encourages, guides, and empowers us. We may marry into a family where we are welcomed and valued for our unique contribution. We find ourselves particularly moved by these experiences with the catharses that they evoke. It is as if we are beamed up, lifted from an old whirlpool, and set down in the stillness of a clear lake.

The model that follows pictures a map of the path towards a lighter travel experience: it is meant to help when we can’t seem to cross over to equanimity, when resentment clings deeply like a burr on our history.

...... This process is undertaken in the full understanding that we cannot control events; we can only control our own choices. We are responsible for our feelings and responses. This is internal work. It is not in reaction to anyone outside ourselves, no matter whom we wish to release from our resentment—other persons alive or dead, or ourselves. The work asks us to step over the dead body of bitterness into detachment and spaciousness.

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At Therapist's Responses to the Challenge of Change

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