I want to tell you about the most interesting thing that happened in therapy with a client. I was working with a man who has experienced significant trauma in his life and we were doing a safe place visualization where he imagines a safe place and I ask him questions to enrich the visualization.
One of the questions I asked was “who is there with you”. He answered a friend, a childhood friend. This man reports having no friends and no close family, and no social support in his life but was able to go back to his childhood and find a loving and kind friend. When I asked him about this friend after the visualization I found out that he and his childhood friend both had a similar name.
What a discovery! Inside of himself was not just a friend, but a kinder, gentler, more accepting part of himself an alter ego of sorts, a companion to the blaming, negative “self” that has crept in to dominate his vision of himself accusing of failure day in and day out. It is incredible what an experience with a good friend can do for a person, even if the friendship is no longer present. It is similar to the experience of the therapeutic relationship; it gives a person a chance to build an alternate reality than they are accustomed one that is trustworthy, and stable that can disrupt older patterns of thinking that have gotten a person or family stuck.
It reminds me of my and my friends personal journey with people in our neighborhood who struggle with addiction and have had abusive childhoods. For many years we plod along, not perfectly, but trying our best to be loving friends to those who are not always easily befriended, and who need a lot more than we can give. It can be easy to dismiss these relationships as of such a small value in their overall healing journey.
Afterall, our love for one another pales in comparison to the amazing love and forgiveness that God offers to each of us. But for some reason or another God chose us to live in relationship with one another and be the bearers of His love for the world to each other. It would seem a lot more effective that he could appear in visions with bright light and angels announcing his love to each person, but instead he works in mysterious, gentle, and sometimes quiet ways through our broken selves.
Let us find encouragement that through the loving gaze of a friend this man could feel love and acceptance that he would not otherwise feel toward himself, and that our commitment to love can go a long way.