still learning the muscles required

graffiti of silhouette standing beneath a raincloud, and another silhouette offering that person an umbrellaI’m just beginning the first of many re-reads of Annie G. Roger’s A Shining Affliction — I want to tell you about it, but I don’t know if my words are far enough away from the story to really get into the details yet this morning. I can’t do a book report or a review yet, although I’d like to. I do know that it’s re-sparked my curiosity about and interest in Lacanian psychoanalysis (which got fully opened when I first read another of her books, The Unsayable: The hidden language of trauma, a couple of years ago, and has been lingering and touching my terror of it ever since).

this morning I have story after story I want to tell you, and I am too scared and stuck to open my mouth

What are the languagings for that experience? I’m aware of being badly in need of help, and not knowing why anyone would help me, and, while I’m feeling all this, experiencing, too, that self above the self that watches and is curious about it all: where does that certainty of not being help-able, not being worth helping, come from?

I want you to read her work and then talk with me about it — I want to go to where she is and study with her. This feels too exposed, writing this, naming my desire for a teacher. This is all so layered, in a culture that values (the myth of) individualism and sees any request for help as a sign of weakness.

One thing that happens with this book (A Shining Affliction, I mean) for me as a reader and a survivor of trauma and a facilitator of healing/transformative spaces with and for others, is that I’m offered the opportunity to be imperfect, un-cured, incompletely healed, as I move forward in my own work. That it is ok to still be wounded and healing (and doing your work around that wounding, of course) when you are working on holding space for others to do their work. I get stuck around that sometimes: I feel I should be entirely well, fixed — and that, if I’m not, I risk doing harm to others, those in my workshops; no, that, in fact, I am harming them, period. That I am harm. (That’s some old stuff.)

Of course, who, in this culture, is entirely well? And, separate from that, isn’t it true that the “healer” who is aware of and working on hir own stuff is providing more safety for the folks ze works with, because ze is more able to see hir triggers and ‘stuff’ as separate from the other person’s stuff? And we know that the isolation of those who experience trauma contributes to this feeling of being both unsafe and unhelpable. (How’s that for distancing language? I mean to say, the ways I was isolated during my adolescence contribute to this sense of having to do for myself, still learning the muscles required to reach out for help.)

I would like to be more articulate about this this morning, but I have to get ready for work.

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What would you like help with? In what areas do you feel unhelpable? Can you write out the help you (or your character) would like, in as much detail as possible?

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Thank you for the help you provide to others, and the ways you allow yourself to risk letting other people help you. Thank you thank you for your words.

One response to “still learning the muscles required

  1. linda bubod

    hi jen,
    i have just required my students to write about their trauma experiences in my trauma class and read Shining Affliction for reflection. as usual i was horrified by some of their stories. on the other hand, when i thoroughly read Shining Affliction recently i got triggered on some unresolved issues of my own traumatic childhood. I think i will read it again. i have started writing my own story. i wonder if doing this in a group context would be more healing. Do you have writing workshops planned in Asia sometime this year or next?

    by the way, i am currently running a counseling program in singapore.