The space in between
A few years ago now I wrote a blog about ‘choices, chances, changes’ (click HERE for link) back when I couldn’t legitimately call myself a Counsellor, where I shared my own lived experience of trauma.
[Side note: as a therapist, this self-disclosure is an interesting ethical dilemma, but when your messiest traumatic event happens super publicly and ends up in The Age newspaper, there’s not a lot you can do about it. So, I very deliberately chose to draw on those experiences to very literally shape and inform my therapeutic practice. It’s not where every therapist would draw their boundary, but it is where I have drawn mine.]
Well, that piece of writing came from a version of me 4 years younger than today and there’s been a fair bit of water that has flowed under the proverbial bridge, so I thought I’d revisit this topic again.
This is quite honestly my favourite quote that I reflect on most days in my life. There have been a number of times in my life where I have drawn so much strength and reserve from these precious words and I’d love to share how I feel it can help us navigate our really dark, lonely days. I also wax lyrical about this quote with clients in session, so if you’ve heard this before, listen again because you never know what newness you might hear today.
Viktor Frankl was a Holocaust survivor. He was an Austrian Neurologist, Psychiatrist and Philosopher. He wrote an incredible short but utterly profound book called, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’. I figure that if anyone can teach us a thing or two about navigating difficult circumstances that are beyond our control it’s someone who found a way to come out of Auschwitz with what, in modern terms, would be classified as a growth mindset. Sometimes though, we can do precious little to change the circumstances that we find ourselves in. We didn’t ask for these awful things to happen to us, for people we loved and trusted to treat us in such diabolical ways. Very often we have tried everything within our capacity to change those people, alter those circumstances. And it changes nothing.
The power of that first quote of Frankl’s that I love so much comes from the timing. We are often so action orientated. Our whole society today is geared towards change, growth, goals and creation or curation or something. What if we just sat with in the space in between the thing that has hurt us and the need to do something? There’s so much power in that space. What if that is the space where we can do our healing? Attend to our own needs? To reach out and seek help? Do our therapy?
And then. Just wait.
The horrors have already happened. I know that feeling of wanting it all to stop. To go away and be done with hard, hurting. We want it over. But that space. It’s pretty special when you get into it. It feels weirdly safe. When we have experienced trauma there is a very real known lack of control, lack of power, lack of capacity to create change. For me it’s one of the worst elements of trauma. Feeling powerless. Knowing what it is to be powerless.
Choosing this space is powerful. It’s an action we are capable of. Some small yet profound action we can choose.