When I first decided to jump into graduate school and get a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy, I think many around me were skeptical (including myself at first). Those who know me responded with raised eyebrows and comments such as, “YOU as a therapist?!” I brushed off the skepticism and dove head-first into the coursework. When thinking about the future and what I wanted to do, I always justified the therapy aspect by pointing out that I didn’t have to necessarily be a therapist but could get a job similar to a Social Worker. It wasn’t until I went to Lynchburg for the week and met Dr. Brooks and Dr. Dumont that I truly realized what I got myself into, and why.
Like many others, my view of therapy was strictly based on stereotypes. I have never attended counseling or therapy. I thought to myself, “Hey, I have a great sense of intuition. I’m right most of the time. I would be great at giving advice to others.” And honestly that’s as far as my thinking went with my choice in graduate coursework.
However, when in Lynchburg, never once did either of these two wonderful professors say the word therapy. Counseling, sometimes, but mostly they refer to “our” line of work as soul care. Dr. Jeanie Brooks said that, “it is wounded people that go into soul care.” She went on to explain that whether we want to believe it or not, we are all wounded in some way. Also, wounded doesn’t mean broken. Wounds can heal, and will with the proper tending. We all have baggage, and we must be willing to examine our baggage and learn from it. That is what sets us apart and allows us to be open to listening and sitting with a person who is wounded. After all, if the person comes to you with similar problems as your own and you aren’t even willing to look at your own, how can you help them understand it’s okay to look at theirs.
Also, our job in soul care is not to fix the person’s problem. Our office is simply a container for emotions which people come to pour them in and then leave feeling better and less heavy. The key to this job is listening. And boy, I didn’t know I had such a problem with listening until I actually tried to focus strictly on that.
I have always known I am a control freak. But I truly believe that deciding to go into this field was a blessing for me. It was the Lord’s way of showing me that I don’t always need to be in control; especially in other people’s lives. In soul care, people need me to listen, truly listen. Everyone in their life has told them ways to fix their problem and alleviate their stresses. However, my job is just to listen to them talk and help them figure out if what they are doing is working for them at the present time. This doesn’t call for me to dictate or order them to do something. All I have to do is listen and repeat back to them what they are saying. I am like a mirror. Once I reflect back to them what they are giving me, they will see if that is a good or bad thing for them. They are able to form their own opinions and solutions, or not. I have to be okay with people living their life the way they want and making the mistakes they choose.
In my own life, this has been particularly hard to practice. I want so much to protect those I love and help them make the right choices. However, I’ve realized that “the right choices” that I choose for them, may not be what they want and no one wants to be undermined and told what to do. Ultimately this will just drive people away and make me look like a prude. Instead, my only job is to control my own actions and allow others to do the same. That seems like such an obvious choice, but it has been truly hard for me to do. However, once I came to this realization, I felt liberated! It was like a weight taken off my shoulders. I no longer have to argue with those I love and try to make them see things “my way”. NOPE! If they believe they are doing the right thing, and it’s working for them; then it’s not up to me to tell them otherwise.
Throughout this experience, I realize I was afraid of losing control. However, I now realize that the act of losing control has a negative connotation. And the more I practice this and the more comfortable I get, the more I see the good it has brought into my life. I now like to think of it as giving away control. I no longer need it. I need to only be responsible for my actions, my money, my life, and my salvation. I can focus on bettering myself, and providing a role model for others, instead of trying to force others to act.
I can already see the benefits from this in my life in just a couple short months. I feel almost weightless, just so much lighter than I was before. I am no longer burdened with other people’s junk. I can just listen and leave them to figure out solutions. Chances are they didn’t want my advice anyway. Most people just want to be heard. In order for a person to change, their situation must be more painful than the act of changing. It’s a personal thing. And if what that person is doing is working for them, whether it’s good or bad, it’s their life. My only job is to listen and love. And that is exactly what I am trying to do. What a blessing this soul care has been so far, and I can’t wait to see what my future holds.