After reading my last two posts on where does hurt go and what does it look like you may have asked the question, “Ok, then, if I am not to focus on what eventually spills out of my hurts, what do I do with them?” I mentioned then that we would take a look at this in future posts, starting with this one. If you haven’t noticed up until now I try to maintain a healthy relational balance between being thorough and yet readable. I want to be responsible to the truth without being cumbersome with references and overly academic jargon. I want you to be able to read a post in one sitting and yet not leave thinking, “well, who the crap is he?” I want to stir new thought but not pretend to be the authority on all things. Never has that been more the case more than with today’s topic.
A little background first to this entire topic. WITH ALL DUE RESPECT (which can be code for “I’m about to really offend some people”…I sure hope not) I have a long frustration with counseling both personally and with kids I have dealt with in ministry. On the one hand, I have gone to several folks over the years and said, “Look, I am not a mess but I know that I’m not right…could counseling be right for me and if so where?” My search for that went on for 5 frustrating years until I came across what I will share with you today. On the other hand, I have had many…many kids come to me over the years who have been to counseling and not one ever said to me as much as, “well overall it wasn’t good but I did learn xyz.” Their experience was always worse than that. As I came across more kids who needed counseling I sought out quality referrals to them through pastors, churches, and professionals and none had any that they would really stand by. What they did give me, none worked out. I AM NOT KNOCKING THE PROFESSION OF COUNSELING OR ANY SPECIFIC COUNSELORS. I am just relating a frustration I have experienced over 15 years of trying to help people.
That all changed when I went to and was trained by the folks at the Center for Relational Care in Austin Texas. I then had further training by them in Atlanta. I do not represent them nor am I licensed as a counselor. For the rest of this post (and subsequent ones as well) let’s consider this as you and me sitting at a coffee shop or a local imaginary bar. We are just talking…I’m just sharing my view and what I know to be true.
The type of counseling model that I’m going to be referring to is loosely based on Attachment Theory. No, not Attachment Therapy (that’s where they hold down unruly kids until they stop freaking out, scream in their face “I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU”, and the kids start planning their life in Guam, far from their parents). No, it’s based on Attachment Theory and as adapted is called Intimacy Therapy (giggle). Here’s how it works.
As simple as it gets, you share a hurt (open honest communication) with a trusted loved one (the expectation is on God to heal you…not the loved one), they join you in your pain (mutual giving), and you have attached comfort to the pain. Then, you cannot relive the pain without feeling the healing love of the comfort.
In application, I shared with Rachel (during training) the story of the day that I found out that my dad was moving out. I had told this story 500 times. This time though, I used many details and opened myself up to the hurt from that day. Dave, the guy teaching us, told Rachel to comfort me. Not really her cup of tea, she struggled. She finally said, “That… must have been terrible.” He told her that was an observation…not comfort. He encouraged her to ask Jesus how He felt for me and what she should say to me. After a two hour (actually 1 minute) pause she looked me in the eyes and said (with tears near if not in her eyes) “I am so sorry that it was so scary…and that you must have felt so alone”. Boom, floodgates opened and I sobbed. “”Holy Cow! I WAS scared, I DID feel so alone.” I thought.
Poor Rachel. She quickly exclaimed, “I’m sorry I’m sorry” as if she caused the pain from that day or shouldn’t have said what she said. I told her, “No” and said that it actually felt good. Dave asked Rachel why she said what she said. She replied, “Well, you told me to ask Jesus how He felt and what I should say. Much as I could tell, that’s how He felt and what He told me to say.” Dave then asked me why it felt good. Rachel, very confused, asked why as well. “Because it felt like she was there…with me.” I said. He said, “Now, we all know that she wasn’t. Perhaps though, Jesus was…and He’s loving you now through Rachel.” I cried again.
Here’s the result. I can no longer tell that story, relive that pain, that hurt, without the comfort of God through Rachel being attached to it. I no longer get that pit in my stomach every time I tell someone or think about the day my dad left. We have successfully ATTACHED comfort to grief. I told Dave that I had an ex-girlfriend who used to say all the time, “You know, it’s ok to cry.” Meanwhile, I had cried over that day more than enough…I’d grown “numb” to it. What was crying over it going to get me? He said something monumental, “Absolutely. Grief without comfort is pointless. It just hurts.”
Dave went on to explain that they have done studies that compare someone telling a painful life experience. As they tell it they do a scan on the pain centers of the brain. They then go through different counseling treatments and retell the story. The only one to show a marked difference was the Attachment/Intimacy Theory model. There was much less pain after attaching comfort to the pain.
If you are someone who bases their life on Scripture, the above works if you don’t…but I’d rather have God involved, take a look at Romans 12: 15. It says to, “…rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.” Mourn WITH them. Not tell them how to think. Not observe how God used their pain. Not encourage them that “this too shall pass”. Certainly not, “Get over it…and yourself.” Further, in John 11 when Lazarus died and his sisters Mary and Martha were crying, Jesus wept WITH them. You need to understand, Jesus was knew that He was about to bring Lazarus back from the dead and heal him. Nonetheless, they were mourning, so He mourned with them. He could and was about to fix the problem yet before that He simply attached His loving comfort to their pain.
Back to “Where does hurt go?”. The cycle of hurt, to anger, to fear, to guilt, to condemnation, has been broken. The fuel for my destructive coping fire began to diminish. This doesn’t end all of the hurt I have regarding my parents years of separation and ultimate divorce. It was just the beginning. There are many other tools that have helped me identify other hurts and create ways for comfort to be attached. I will tell you this. The relationship I now have with my parents is not encumbered by the hurt of the past.
So, it has worked for me. It makes logical sense. It has some science to back it up. It has a biblical foundation. Jesus did it. Nothing else I have ever encountered or observed has come close to it. Thus, I’m a big fan. Am I a counselor? No. Am I an expert? On this…to a degree, relatively speaking. As it is, I’m just a guy, sitting at a bar, telling you what has worked for me. Pass the popcorn please.