Over the last several months, my family has experienced a number of major crises from a flooded apartment to a granddaughter running away to a lengthy personal illness to uncertainty of employment to decisions concerning the health and well-being of aging parents to eye surgery to ongoing long-term unemployment. It has been a period of chaos and anxiety like I have not known in some time.
In the midst of all these events, I have worked hard to be mindful and present for myself, as well as for my family. However, at this moment, I am finding it very hard to maintain such a status. With each day (and sometimes with each passing hour) I am more easily distracted by the growing feelings of vengeance, reprisal, frustration, and anger. It seems that being mindful of these feelings, and acknowledging their presence is no longer enough. I feel a growing need to lash out and bring about retribution for the pain and heartache these events have created. Keeping that fluid center between acceptance of the current situation and the angry desire to act out is becoming almost impossible.
Intellectually, I realize that these events are creating a number of paradoxes with which I am dealing. There is the paradox of the loss of personal belongings and the need for safety and security. There is the paradox of accepting the natural progression of aging and being fearful of what the future holds. There is the paradox of loving unconditionally and being frustrated over people’s immaturity and lack of regard for others. There is the paradox of wanting to help and yet respecting people’s boundaries, as well as being responsible for their own choices and actions.
I am wrestling with how to be genuine and vulnerable in these events, while at the same time wanting to withdraw and detach from all that is going on. I struggle with how to be present and supportive, while at the same time wanting to jump in and tell those involved how to fix the problems and confusion they have created. I grapple with being at peace with myself, acknowledging that that the only place I have control is with myself, while at the same time growing increasingly weary of and overwhelmed by the circumstances in which I currently exist.
To some degree, my current existence brings to mind memories of dating during high school and college. In particular, it reminds of me taking dates to amusement parks. I would take a girl on such a date because it was a popular thing to do, especially with a group of couples. At some point during our time at the park, the question of riding the rollercoaster would come up, and everyone would agree to ride it (including myself). The problem for me was (is) that I hate rollercoasters. Riding a rollercoaster leaves me feeling dazed and confused, to say nothing of the physical symptoms that followed a ride. But because I feared looking like a weakling or a party-pooper, and because I wanted to impress the young lady I was with I would ride the rollercoaster—sometimes multiple times. When I finally realized that I did not have to prove myself or impress anyone I was able to say no to the ride and be okay. It even enabled me to enjoy the rest of the park more. I also found out there were many females who didn’t like rollercoasters either.
The problem for me right now is I don’t know how to get to that place of self-acceptance in my current circumstances. How do I find that fluid center where I am able to maintain my mindfulness and be present for those around me? How do I accept the paradoxes of my current life and maintain balance? As a therapist, I am supposed to know how to do this process. I help clients do this on a regular basis, so why am I unable to do this for myself?
In the end, I recognize that I will live through this time of chaos and anxiety, even if I am not sure how I will do so. These current moments of personal angst and confusion are a reminder for me of the importance of holding hope for our clients. One of the greatest gifts we can offer to our clients as they wrestle through their own chaotic and confused lives is the gift of hope, the belief that they will make it through this anxious time. Not only that they will make it through, but they may very well emerge stronger, more insightful individuals. In some cases, the hope we hold for our client is the only hope they have. When we hold hope for a client, we give them space to work through their pains, struggles, confusions, and chaos. When we hold hope for a client it enables them to relax, to be present and mindful of their feeling and emotions which in turn enables them to discover and consider previously unseen options for dealing with whatever lies before them.
To one degree or another, there will always be times of chaos and confusion in our lives—they cannot be avoided or removed. At the same time, hope is always present, sometimes we just need someone else to hold it for us.
— Steve Fehl