Monday, June 6, 2011

Group Therapy

Fulfilling a promise I made to my therapist, I attended my very first Group therapy session. I have avoided this for months because, well, I really don’t like to do anything in groups. And I have enough difficulty talking about my trauma with my closest of the close, much less a group of strangers.

But a promise is a promise.

And so this morning I sat in a room with a woman who had been in the One World Trade Center when it fell; a (too) young veteran of Afghanistan missing his right leg and hand; a young woman who has lived through years of sexual abuse; and a middle aged gentleman who did not reveal his issues.

People tend to rate and rank difficult and traumatic experiences, as if A is always worse than B, which is always easier than C. The death of a child is worse than death of a parent. Or parents who have lost an adult child suffer more than those who have lost babies. As if human suffering is some kind of competition.

I have never been one to compare folk’s pain. Maybe because I tend to think of everyone as being deeply wounded. I don’t think anyone ever escapes without some scars. Perhaps when one experiences pain it makes it easier to see the wounds in others.

Today I sat while a woman beat herself up that even after 10 years she cannot negotiate a flight of stairs. And a young man without a leg and hand talked about how he was glad to have some physical evidence of his pain because no one believed the emotional scars. And a teenaged girl talked about being sexually molested since she was three years old. Three!

And I realized that nothing will get me out of my own bullshit faster than listening to someone else’s pain.

Maybe I’ll go back.

Have compassion for everyone you meet
even if they don't want it. What seems conceit,
bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign
of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.
You do not know what wars are going on
down there where the spirit meets the bone.

- Miller Williams


  1. There are some experiences in life that cross all of our red lines. But being receptive to the pain of others is certainly one way to triumph over the despair.

  2. Does this mean you'll continue therapy past your June deadline?

    Even though their stories are different, there is a shared humanity in how people survive the horrors life throws at them.

    It does sound like maybe this would be helpful to you.

  3. "Perhaps when one experiences pain it makes it easier to see the wounds in others."

    You are such a compsassionate person. Perhaps your pain has given you an even greater gift.

  4. I know it was hard for you to go to this group. Be proud of yourself for going. It's a measure of your progress that you were able to do so.

    I agree with you about the rating and ranking issue. I have experienced it as well. The competitive aspect is sad, and so belittling. Ugh.

    Great quote.