On Being a Therapist. And a Human.


In my work, I talk and I listen. The people who come to see me bring their problems. They talk about their lives. I sit and smile gently and breathe slowly and softly when they cry.

I feel like my job is to be a human in the presence of other humans. 

To do more than this - to talk about theories and reasons and explanations, while valid, is different than the essence of this job.

Being human has taught me to be with my heart. To feel things as others feel them and to be with these feelings deeply, unflinchingly. 

A teacher of mine once said the essence of compassion is to be able to sit intimately with another person’s pain.

To do this means I’ve had to sit unflinchingly with mine. The reason there are therapists, the reason I have a job is because sometimes, to sit with these emotions takes another person. Someone who has learned to sit unflinchingly with another.

Great therapy is just this. Learning and feeling how it is to be with oneself in the presence of another.

That we have grand theories and the science to show us the how’s and why’s of this work is essential. Because in sitting with pain we also seek to understand it. And in the knowing that comes with understanding we can rest. We can slowly begin to say and then feel, “It is not my fault.”

When we know this and still choose to do the work of being with ourselves we begin to heal. Healing happens when we stop turning away from ourselves. When we are able to be joyously our whole self in the presence of another.

Then we continue. We hold more space for ourselves. We hold more space for others. The space we know becomes wide and vast, unsinkable. Our pain can remain, but in this place it is tolerable and we are enough. We know deep within ourselves that this life and we in it are enough.

I am writing this while a baby sleeps on my stomach, looking out at the trees and sun and sky in a beautiful place and it is enough. I hope I can remember this equally well when it is night I am in a dark and uncomfortable place that it is still enough. I hope I can be enough for others. I hope I can continue to be enough for myself. I practice everyday and I hope it is enough.

It is work to remember this space. It takes a constant awareness that wherever I am and whatever I feel there is more. There is a greater space outside of whatever space I am in. It is inside me and all around, a part of any experience in which I choose to remember this truth.

It is enough. I am enough.

And so I hold onto this truth with others. And when they cry, turning towards me with red rimmed eyes and snot filled noses, it is enough. As I remind myself, so they are reminded and in turn they remind themselves.