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May 27, 1979

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  • May 27, 1979

    Posted by Barrett1<script language="JavaScript1.3" type="text/javascript"> document.write(timestamp(new Date(2004,4,27,9,21,0), dfrm, tfrm, 0, 0, 0, 0)); </script> (Member # 3214) on 27-05-2004 16:21<noscript>May 27, 2004 09:21 AM</noscript>:

    It’s been a quiet week in Cuyahoga Falls…

    I remember it was a Sunday morning and I was grateful for the thick edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution I found in the hospital’s gift shop. The contractions were still quite far apart and the initial rush of excitement we felt while headed to the hospital had pretty much passed. I settled into a comfortable chair beside the bed, opened the paper, and waited for our first child to arrive.

    The chairs lined up on the floor of the Tallmadge Middle School gymnasium were largely full when we arrived last night and we could see that those still empty had been reserved with tape across the seats. My wife and I thought it would be best if we sat in the bleachers anyway since we didn’t actually have a child in the play. A few moments after we had settled down she appeared in the doorway at the far side of the room, her face intent and her manner controlled and purposeful. I knew that backstage she’d been riding herd over the seventy kids vibrating with the excitement of this event and switching gears from director to daughter wouldn’t be easy. “I’ve saved some seats for you,” she said and we immediately followed her down onto the floor and into the third row without questioning her authority.

    I find myself contemplating the nature of therapeutic presence a bit more often these days. My new opportunities to teach more forces me to discuss this openly with a group of therapists several times each month and I’m currently of the opinion that some complex alchemy of authority, concern, empathy and detachment is probably best. The concentration of each element varies from moment to moment however, and how these are expressed verbally and nonverbally by the therapist becomes an art that requires both careful attention and intuition that only years of practice can perfect. I also know that I’ll never be as good at this as many of my colleagues.

    The happiest I ever saw her was backstage at a high school musical. She had played the mother in “Meet Me in St. Louie” and wore a beautiful white dress in the final scene. There among her friends and still feeling the thrill of an enormous ovation I watched her dance about joyfully, almost glowing in her long skirts and wide-brimmed hat. Little girls in the hallway wanted an autograph “from the mother,” and she gently obliged, making them glow in return.

    Later that morning a quarter century ago today as we sat quietly gazing at our daughter my wife shared a thought she’d had a few hours earlier; “If you had rustled the newspaper just one more time I was going to get out of the bed and strangle you.” “Oh,” I said. “Was that bothering you?”

    I guess my therapeutic presence hadn’t yet matured. Of course, I had no mentors especially interested in such a thing, and, in the world of therapy, I never have. Luckily for me and my patients someone arrived in my life that would teach me all of this and much more.

    For all the years I’ve been a father I’ve been a student, and Jennie has been my teacher.
    <hr> Posted by freetomove (Member # 2735) on <script language="JavaScript1.3" type="text/javascript"> document.write(timestamp(new Date(2004,4,27,22,39,0), dfrm, tfrm, 0, 0, 0, 0)); </script> 28-05-2004 05:39<noscript>May 27, 2004 10:39 PM</noscript>:

    Hi Barrett,

    I've been doing some pretty intense thinking about therapeutic presence lately myself. Unfortunately, it's taken on a very personal note. As you know, my 2 1/2 year-old daughter (and also my greatest teacher) is seriously ill with cancer. As grateful as I currently am for chemotherapy, it seems somehow barbaric. There certainly seems nothing therapeutic about it. There cannot be much worse than watching your child suffer and feeling helpless to change it. I used to feel pretty confident about my ability to connect with and help people in pain. Last night I held my precious little girl as she writhed in pain for which I had no explanation and no remedy. Sometimes, presence is all I have. I hope and pray that is somehow enough for her.

    For some time, I've believed one's ability to help others is connected to how much they've suffered and how much they've healed. On one hand, I currently feel devoid of empathy as I am suffering so much. On the other hand, I know this experience, whatever its outcome may be, is changing me deeply. I hope one day our suffering will help others bear their own.

    Nick Matheson
    Last edited by bernard; 30-12-2005, 06:02 PM.
    Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. L VINCI
    We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. I NEWTON

    Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not a bit simpler.
    If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. Albert Einstein