I first became aware of the impact of secondhand trauma back in the mid-90s. I was working as a therapist in a Community Mental Health Center and a lot of my clients were survivors of sexual abuse. So I was already learning about the effects of trauma when there was a...
The Flow of Compassion
This quote from Rumi has been on my mind.
Your hand opens and closes, and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced
as birds’ wings.
If I pause long enough to feel the rhythm of the ocean, I can feel it pulsing through me. My heart beating with the flow.
Like the rise and fall of my breath, I can let myself open to the experience of others. With empathy I can recognize and acknowledge their emotions. Mirror neurons allow us to sense the feelings of someone else.
Because emotions motivate behavior, the feelings leads to an urge to act. If there is pain, I want to help. I want to alleviate the suffering.
That’s compassion. Recognizing the suffering and wanting to help.
But Rumi’s right. If I stay open, I’ll get stuck, feel paralyzed. I may feel like I”m drowning in other people’s pain. That does not help anyone.
I need to close again. I need to step back, reclaim my own energy for myself.
I have to learn over and over again how to do that. How to separate and make sure I’m filling my own bucket, wearing my own oxygen mask.
And I have to remember to do that over and over. Even if I only remember when I’m already a bit overwhelmed, that’s ok. But over and over and over, opening and closing.
I’m starting 2022 with some new ideas on how to do this. Because I have a steady stream of clients, I need to practice this opening and closing over and over. I have some new strategies I’m trying, and I’ll share those in another blog post.
For now, I’d love to know what you’re doing. What strategies or techniques do you use to open and close?
Second Hand Trauma
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This is the excerpt for your very first post.