Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. ~Pema Chodron
At a time before medication, when the norm was to confine them to hospital back wards and prisons, JL Moreno, the father of psychodrama, opened a hospital for psychotic patients. Not only did Moreno treat them, but he treated them with great dignity. Even though he was the only physician on staff when he opened Beacon Hospital, he insisted that everyone in the facility be called Doctor – yes, everyone. His philosophy was that we are each other’s therapists, no matter if you’re a psychotic patient, a nurse, a cook in the kitchen or a custodian.
There’s a famous story of his encounter with a psychotic patient at Beacon Hospital,
“Good day, sir, my name is Dr. Moreno. And what is your name?”
Hello, Dr. Moreno, my name is Jesus.”
“Oh, Jesus. I’ve always wanted to meet you. Tell me about your life.”
Unlike the norm – or conserve at the time – of confronting this patient and convincing him that he was not Jesus, Moreno stepped into the man’s world, because only by going into it could he help him navigate his way out of it. It is this willingness to go into the darkness of others, and together, navigate our way through and out, that guides me as a psychodramatist.
I get asked all the time why it requires so many training hours to become certified in this modality (780 hours) and my response is always the same, “You not only have to know how to get people into their core, but you also have to know how to get them out.”
I’ve been in my own core – somewhat dark – place over the last few weeks, and finding words has been difficult – thus my lack of blog posting. While it hasn’t been a “fun” place to be, it’s been a necessary one for the next step on my own journey.
There have been many times over the years where I have been asked to step into the darkness with my protagonist – whether that be about physical abuse, sexual abuse, addiction, grief and loss, 9/11, depression, etc. I know without a shadow of a doubt that the ONLY way that I’ve been able to do this is for 2 reasons: I bring a whole host of spiritual support into the room to travel with me and guide me, and because I have sought out – and continue to visit – safe places to step into my own darkness and work towards clearing it and allowing in softness, compassion, grace, trust, love and light.
As my former supervisor, Vince Casolaro used to say, “Therapy’s about two people getting better and one of them getting paid for it.” I know that I can only take someone where I’ve been.
It is now my task – my calling – to “pay it forward” and pass that same gift on to those with whom I am blessed to work.