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Women's counselling Vancouver blog
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If tears could talk … what might they say to each other?

I imagine the feisty group of recent feminist, narrative practice grads, and the new interns, that this blog is dedicated to and I wonder, might such an exercise engage learning in the direction of praxis?  I am interested in inviting the political to conversations of the personal and this intention informs the exercise.

Learning into praxis is an abstract bit to translate, however central I believe it is to narrative therapy – and the political, relational therapy I aspire to encourage – because, yes – the personal is political.

I open this space for both clients and clinic therapists with this invitation to hear what our tears may have to say…[accordian divider_line=”” class=”” id=””]
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because we have much to learn from each other and because I believe transparency is powerful, positive and the accountable thing to do – if our therapy is truly committing to an ethical integrity that intends to translates the intention of theory into practice. I am interested in what effect the interns might feel such a practice has upon their learning, because what and who we consult to inform our learning and our relating out there, very much affects what we are becoming, as therapists.

This discourse may not be of interest to all … so for those of you yawning here.. perhaps give a stretch into responding to some of the therapeutic questions below (ideally with another – as I do believe it will engage a whole other outcome). The in-connection context, can be with yourself and an imagined other (real or fantasy).

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For those of you interested in the talking tears exploration, try these questions.. I invite you to work through all the questions, start to finish:

Recall a moment where tears paid a visit while in the company of another person (for the therapists here.. with your client or a mentor, for others with your chosen other).  Where were you and who was there next to you?  What was going on and how did the tears arrive? Did they explode or was a dam quickly built, to hold things back?  Was it just one tear or did a few collect into a well at the corner of your eye perhaps?  Were tears interrupted and sent home?  Was the other person involved with your tears?

See below as we dive further into the world of narrative and the relational that has my interests, as mentioned above.

Some tear-talking questions:

If your tears could talk and be heard by someone, what might these tears want to tell you that could be helpful for you/your learning?

What might your tears tell you about your values?

How might you respond to the tears insights?

Is there some wisdom offered? If so.. what might it be?

I would also be curious to know:

Which tears might you have held on tight to and not shared (while in session for the therapists.. or in the argument or conversation, for the relationships, or with your boss, friend, etc..):

What might tears have to say about what you do share and what you don’t, in their wisest, clearest voice of authority?

What might tears distinguish as informing their authority and what might tears reveal as dismissing or disqualifying their insight?

Where do tears go when they are not heard?

To get you started, here are some lovely examples from the interns at ProChoices Clinic:

Recall a moment, where tears played a visit while in the company of another person (for the therapists here.. with your client or a mentor, for others with your chosen other).  

Where were you and who was there next to you?  What was going on and how did the tears arrive? Did they explode or was a dam quickly built, to hold things back?  Was it just one tear or did a few collect into a well at the corner of your eye perhaps?  Were tears interrupted and sent home?  Was the other person involved with your tears?  

I will choose a client I worked with yesterday.  I was in a session and I noted that my question evoked tears for her.  I became teary as well.  The tears welled a little, and I realize she may be aware, so I had better admit.  I took a deep breath and settled into the chair, the room and my attention with my client, and as I did it seemed to be ok, the panic-like feeling subsided. I disclosed I was sharing her grief.  

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Sparkling Moment: I was with a client of mine in session and they were sharing a particularly heartbreaking story. Tears came to visit first welling up behind my eyes then escaped slowly one by one, out of the corner of my eyes. I asked them to wait until later, but I couldn’t hold them back, so they trickled down my cheeks.

Veracity: Upon hearing positive feedback about myself from a supervisor once, I found tears collecting in the corners of my eyes. I quickly shut them down and tried to maintain a flat look, so that the other person wouldn’t know the extent of how they affected me.

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If your tears could talk and be heard by someone, what might these tears want to tell you that could be helpful for you/your learning?

I think my tears may have said to me, it is ok to know you share her grief and perhaps it is companionship for her tears, but as this is her story, I don’t want to let the tears dictate any assumption that my experience is hers.  The tears seem wise and compassionate here about the complexity of my position as a therapist.

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Sparkling Moment: This one particular time my tears told me, “It’s not fair what this person in front of me has gone through. This world is so cruel. You have an ability to feel the pain of another Human being and that’s why I’m here right now.” For me, the words of these tears reminded me that as a Counselling Therapist, I am human too and it’s not my job to be strong for the other person and carry them, but rather to be present with them and allow their story the space to speak. In creating such space that story will reach into my human self and tears may come to visit and that’s ok.

Veracity: At the aforementioned time, they were trying to tell me how relieving and important it was to get that validation at that exact moment. I think they were showing me how much it had been missing and how much I needed to hear something uplifting about myself. I was not ready to acknowledge how much validation had been missing in my life, so in that moment I pushed it away. For learning, I may gather from these tears that if something seemingly small impacts me like that, it is worth examining – what is missing?

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What might your tears tell you about your values?

My tears here seem to be involved in empathy.  I also feel a force of solidarity with my client as being against the problem.

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Sparkling Moment: My tears brought to my attention, the strong value for empathy and relationships/community, as well as for what I will call genuine humanness. As a therapist, I’m trained in conversation and creating space for stories to be heard, I’m not here to use my knowledge to decide what my client needs. They intrinsically know, and I’m here to help them find that knowledge.

Veracity: Appreciation helps me to feel whole.

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How might you respond to the tears’ insights? Is there some wisdom offered? If so.. what might it be?

I feel like I should thank my tears regularly, for reminding me of why I do this work. My tears seem humble and supportive of nourishing my humility. I see a wealth of utility in this for the mastery I strive for as a therapist.

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Sparkling Moment: The wisdom my tears have offered, is that in the context of therapy as a therapist, it is ok if tears come to visit. If they are invited by human connection and empathy, they validate the story I’m privileged to listen too; a validation and welcoming of truth being told.

Veracity: My body (specifically tears in this case) has knowledge that I am sometimes unaware of. These moments of surprise tears are often clues to something that is going on for me and if I am able to listen to my tears, or at least acknowledge them, I can gain some of this insight.

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Which tears might you have held on tight to and not shared (while in session for the therapists.. or in the argument or conversation, for the relationships, or with your boss, friend, etc..):

What might tears have to say about what you do share and what you don’t, in their wisest, clearest voice of authority?

Tears say here.. pay attention, listen up – as the alternative could mean you are missing a good therapeutic opportunity and some learning reflexively.  Tears seem to remind me here, that there seems to exist some stigma involved with showing the softer side.. that being real – transparent is not ok.  I wonder why this is.  I had not thought about tear stigma before.  I notice it is ok to cry at a movie, but not at something real going on.  I wonder why this is and what the constraint is privileging.  For now.. I am not sure.  Tears are saying here – maybe this is worth considering further!

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Sparkling Moment: If however, tears are showing up because as a therapist I’m reminded of my personal life, or if tears are coming because I as a therapist have been neglecting my self care. The therapeutic space may be interrupted and taken away from the client in these instances. Anytime, tears come into the space from my own personal experience as a therapist, rather than validating and sharing the space with the client and their story, I would hold on to those tears and ask them to come back at another time.

My tears reveal to me that I share my humanness with others. I listen with empathy and compassion and share words that come from a desire to connect and create a space of safety and warmth. They also tell me that I don’t share my own story perhaps in the way that I often need to and in order to listen with warmth and empathy, I need to also give voice to my lived experience .

Veracity: Any tears shed in anger. I don’t have respect for these tears and feel that they betray me in moments where I want to be strong.

For me, the second question is it’s more as what are tears sharing with me (instead of others). I so often suppress tears and refuse to acknowledge their bid to appear, that I think they often know what I am experiencing before I do.

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What might tears distinguish as informing their authority and what might tears reveal as dismissing or disqualifying their insight?

Wow… informing their authority – me perhaps.. as I don’t think there is much out there in support of tears .  Maybe feminism as they put the idea of emotions as ok (anger, protest, etc).. great question!

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Sparkling Moment: My tears distinguish their authority by just coming without even asking. They well up and just pour out without even knocking, sometimes. Other times, they may knock and then run away and hide and then stay away preventing a human connection. When they come knocking and then run away, I feel it in my body, a very tight and heavy chest, and often flushed face. This is when I know the wisdom of my tears has been dismissed.

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Where do tears go when they are not heard?

This made me teary. I wonder if tears might become hurt from their enforced silence and saddened by the unnecessary seculsion.  It could be tragic.

This exercise and the tears seem to reminding me that we are all connected.

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Sparkling Moment: When tears are not heard, they hide inside my chest and get stuck there. When that happens, anxiety comes in and makes its presence known, amplifying the already heavy chest and moving into my stomach. I’d much rather allow my tears the chance to be heard to avoid this, maybe not right away, depending why they are visiting, but its important to make time to visit with them and then let them go free.

Veracity: Into my gut, my shoulders, my neck, my voice. My eye contact (or lack thereof). They go into hindering my ability to be present.

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Tears are a river that take you somewhere. Weeping creates a river around the boat that carries your soul-life. Tears lift the boat, off the rocks, off dry ground, carrying it down river to someplace new… someplace maybe better..
~Clarissa Pinkola Estes.