most morally reprehensible act is to make others responsible for how we are living our life, for our having decided to not live our life at all. I loved my mother and sister and carry some guilt still that I was not able to rescue them or even see them actually happy behind the face they presented to the public. Walking away from people we love when knowing that staying will mean betraying our soul's longing to live is one of the most painful things you do or may feel compelled to do. Mary Oliver (2017) in "The Journey," speaks to that moment when you realize what you have to do to live while all around you others cry out "Mend my life!" Taking your journey, you hear a voice which you recognize as your own, going with you as you go "into the world,/determined to do/the only thing you could do – /determined to save/the only life you could save."
Trauma Revisited My wife, Anne, and I moved to Carrollton in 1975 to take a shared teaching position in the Department of Psychology at what was then West Georgia College. The wild and crazy and turbulent 60s arrived in Carrollton in the 70s. My hard-drinking lifestyle and tendency to run or dance naked when intoxicated shocked some but amused others, since during those times of streaking and communal living, I was viewed as something of a free spirit. But my exuberance and passion for life belied my effort to avoid confronting the pain of my past trauma. Dancing naked at a Halloween party I experienced flashbacks of having witnessed, when
just short of turning 3, my father – more a stranger coming home on leave during the Second World War – sexually abusing two of my siblings from my mother's previous marriage. Contacting my younger sister, who was only 2 and holding my hand when we witnessed the horror, I was astounded she could recall at all the experience. She shared with me also what others had told her. (It took one of the sisters, who was 8 when she was abused, over 70 years to finally share with me everything that happened to her, including the damage it caused later in her life and in her relationships.) I learned also that my younger sister was later sexually abused by our father and was raped by our half brother. I, myself, had no recollection of being sexually abused, but the terror of watching my siblings being abused and hearing them cry and scream was, I know, equally traumatic for two children not yet 3 years old. For half my life, I would display all the symptoms – a desire to be perfect, alcohol and sexual addiction, life-risking behaviors, periods of depression. After re-experiencing the trauma that Halloween, my acting out in public while naked ended. Nonetheless, I was offered a non-tenured teaching position at the university and I declined the offer. In time, I was asked to volunteer at the local mental health clinic that lacked funds to fill needed positions. I worked a year full-time without pay. Clients wanted to work with me. I realized it didn't matter if I was probably more lost and troubled than some of them; what mattered was that I cared, I listened, I was genuinely present, and they felt respected, seen and heard in my presence. We were healing one another. Meanwhile, I had been completing a master's in counseling and in time, fearfully and anxiously, started a counseling practice. I had found my calling, or my calling found me.
What we run from runs our lives; What we face frees us to live.
Lesson 5: Become a wounded healer.
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