may I call you Harriet?

Have you ever known someone who has been in therapy for many years and still seems stuck on the same pain?

I have found that the desire to hold onto pain is often much greater than the desire to relinquish it. This is often due to fear. Who am I without this thought? How will I keep myself safe if I don’t behave this way? This is often due to confusion. I want to change, but I really don’t understand what you mean when you say I don’t have to live this way. This is often due to a true inability to move beyond what happened. I have to remain vigilant or it will happen, again. When you talk to me like that, I feel it all over, again.

The number one roadblock to healing is the way we have set up society.

When people have to worry about where their next meal is coming from or how they can keep a roof over their heads, it’s challenging to really dig into the work of healing. Luckily, I get little reminders of that sometimes. I will be happily trucking along and I slam up against communal rage and pain. I’ll forget to keep myself in my protective bubble and I’ll start taking on the dominant feelings around me. Lately, those feelings have been rage and depression and deep, deep grief.

When the world cries, I cry with her.

The other day, I was lost to despair and I felt annoyed by it. I used to be happy. What had happened to me?

Connection had happened to me. I am connected to all of us and so many of us are in pain. Who am I to remove myself? We are all one, whether we realize it or not.

One day, as I sat asking myself what was truly happening within me, I realized that this grief and depression that felt so heavy and real was not even mine. In my moment of deep questioning and close observation, I was able to shake free of the glum feelings that had overtaken me. I remembered who I really was.

Sometimes, I find myself pondering how I would be different if I had never known grief. Would I be able to do this work? Can someone who has never suffered assist someone else as they feel around in the darkness of their mind? Someone who has never experienced tragedy cannot know what to do to move beyond it and stay there. This is probably why so many people who have experienced deep sorrow and trauma become therapists and healers.

The trouble comes when someone who has not also known bliss is trying to guide someone out of their personal darkness. If you have not genuinely experienced the light, if you have not found it from a variety of littered paths, how do you know you’re actually helping the other person?

In 2011, I renewed my vow to be of service to humanity, because I knew that it’s easier for people to take your hand when they know you are with them. This is a tricky tendency among the wounded: they rarely trust those who have healed. They can’t relate. Even if they say they want a guru, they will find the one with the most troublesome past to overlook, the most nebulous life to look into.

We fall in love with who we are in others. No matter how that looks.

I am no stranger to the abyss and I am thankful for the occasional reminders of just how deep and dark it is, lest I begin to romanticize healing.

But once you know the way out, you only go there to help others find their way out. We each become Harriet Tubman on the Underground Railroad to our personal freedoms, returning many times to help all those who also realize they are ensnared.

May it always be so.