Holding another with love and compassion
Let me love your imperfections, your demons, your fears. Let me embrace your anger, let me attend to your wounds. That is the only way I know how to love you. One of the themes I meet in my psychotherapy practice is "I am bad because I am not perfect''. This self-sabotaging thought often underpins a mild anxiety, depression, addiction, or just an ever present feeling of unhappiness. In the dialogues with my clients, I discover that ''perfect'' means for them all light and good. Strong, healthy, wealthy, successful. And because people are not all light and good, it must mean that they are stained, guilty and need to be punished by an aggressor, by life and most of all by themselves. But where did this ''perfect'' lie originate from? Why do parents, school, society invent norms and tame people to become perfect? In my search for truth, I discovered something that may explain this quest for perfection. A book called, Prayers of the Cosmos: Meditations on the Aramaic Words of Jesus, by Neil Douglas-Klotz, a Scholar in religious studies, spirituality, and psychology. The author translated the teachings of Jesus from the original Aramaic and he discovered how a reference to perfection has been mistranslated. In the King James Version of the Bible it is written that Jesus said ''Be you, therefore, perfect.'' However, a truer rendition would be ''Be you all-embracing.'' Therefore, the original instruction from Jesus was to be wholehearted. As you can see, to be perfect and to be wholehearted are very different things. Being perfect obliges us to exclude flaws and feed our virtues, which in practice never works and so far in my experience always becomes a dysfunctional way of living. Instead, being all-embracing and wholehearted means allowing ourselves to be human, with all the emotional and mental struggles. It urges us to lean into life, to feel it all, to open our hearts enough to embrace the surface and the depths. Being perfect leads to being judgemental; while being all-embracing shows a quiet, humble courage. Bearing this in mind we can begin to approach holding space for another in an all embracing way. We become the mirror of love! We begin to see that when anger screams, it wants love. When sadness whispers, it wants love. When drama is acted out, it wants a cuddle, a soft kiss on the cheek. But in order to do all this with ourselves and our beloved, we need to let go of the ''perfect'' lie and believe the truth of ''wholehearted.'' So, I offer below some of the modalities that worked for me, both as a Healer holding space for another and as a person in need of Healing and being held:
Love and pay attention to what the other person hates about herself/himself. The parts that are ignored and judged need love and acceptance more than the good parts.
Be a curious, willing explorer of any heavy emotional moment. When your partner is having a rough time, something within the person needs attention, needs to be seen. That part that struggles needs an ally.
Acknowledge what the partner cannot see or hear. Simple words like "I see your pain'' instead of ''It's your fault'' can transform reality.
Nurture another with presence and loving attention, not only with food, material goods or smart, clever arguments. In most cases, my patients and clients do not share their pain with their mothers. When I ask why they say the mother was always there to feed them but never to find out how they really feel.
Listen to the person in front of you like his/her life would depend on you. Don't be smart, be understanding and all-embracing.
Turn love into play. Imagine you play with demons, not fight them. One of the moments I realized how much I love my partner was when I smiled while fighting him. A genuine, safe smile came on my face while my ego wasn't able to let go of the fight. He created that safe space, with his all-embracing attitude that made me open my heart in spite of the anger I felt.
And probably one of the most important tools - be grateful for the other's pain and suffering. Because those are the moments when we learn the most about ourselves and our capacity of being human.