Who Will Be With Us at the Edge?

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By Aundi Kolber | Twitter: @aundikolber

My vocation as a therapist can make me feel like I’m standing with my client on the edge of an abyss. Engaging in trauma processing can feel like putting my toes up against the ledge of a vast canyon and hoping we don’t fall in. Yet we also know we must put our bodies there. We must hold this sacred space.

Trauma, whether big “T” trauma (e.g. PTSD) or little “t” trauma (e.g. grief) is like that. It requires immense respect and training for the intensity it holds. My supervisor used to say, “Don’t open it up unless you’re sure you can put it back in.” Similarly, one of the main ethical tenants for therapists to learn is this: Do no harm.

The deep healing many of us need can feel tenuous, because it requires risk. It causes everyone who is a part of it to lean into the process rather than the arrival. Understanding this helps us make sense as to why many of us are walking around with gaping disconnects between our bodies, minds, and souls. We’re scared—and understandably so—to let ourselves be integrated. What will we find if we do? And it is hard. Many of us have had to live this way in order to survive. With a nervous system bound tight as a coil, we are stuck wondering why we would ever dare to do this work? Why does it matter?

Again and again, I, too, ask these questions.

I ask because it’s the vocation of my life and the heartbeat of what God has called me to. Not only that, but I’m a survivor of complex trauma, so I’ve experienced enormous growth. I’ve felt terror in my stomach. I’ve lived with the chronic pain of a body so tightly wound it doesn’t know how to calm down. I know what it’s like for grief to swallow me.

And like many of my clients, I’ve wondered:

Will someone stand with me in the sacred, scary place?

Will I be alone?

Will anyone catch me if I fall?

In our core, it seems most of us are asking these questions. Who will be with us at the edge?

***

Although I’ve been a therapist for over a decade, it’s only been in the last five years that a new fire awoke in me. The intensity of parenting a highly sensitive kiddo, and then secondary infertility, and then a year without sleep peeled away layers of my own resistance. I’d already begun my own journey of healing, starting all those years ago while in seminary, but I found there was more to mend. Suddenly, the hustler, the go-getter I have always been, was nowhere to be found. Instead, she was exhausted.

For years, I survived by white-knuckling my way through life. I learned to have the right answer, but not to need anything. I’d learned to give others tenderness, but not myself. I found, and mistakenly believed, this is what’s required to be a person.

Even more, in a literal way, my body had been wired to live in constant hyper-vigilance and this fueled the anxiety. This was the result of living in a family where nothing was certain; where walking on eggshells and proving my worth was the currency.

Even though Jesus had told me his load was easy, I had no concept of what this meant. I didn’t know what this felt like in my body—not in any real way. But oh my, I wanted to know.

And so this fire I found wasn’t about doing more. It wasn’t about being the best. It was about letting myself be cracked open with all my tender spots—with all my wounds.

The more I grew, the more I cared about other people at their limits, too. I had let go of the belief that I could fix other people. In a way, I didn’t even know if I could help them. All I knew was that Jesus was with me at my sharp edges, and I wanted others to know and experience a with-ness too.

It was in this new place, this new phase of healing in my own life that I began to experience Jesus in a more visceral way than I ever had. Recognizing that even as my own husband, therapist, and a handful of others stood with me at my edge—Jesus had always stood with me, too. In fact, Jesus became tangible to me in a way I’d never known in the days when I lived a disconnected life.

Perhaps this has fueled the blaze in me. Perhaps the goodness of being seen is too precious to pass up. Maybe the edge is worth it–maybe even with the risk. It’s worth it to take the hand of the one you care about and stare down the great abyss.

——————-

About Aundi:

Aundi Kolber is passionate about extraordinary salsa, baby giggles, and holding space for people in process. She is a licensed professional counselor, mom, and wife in Colorado. Aundi has a goofy sense of humor, but may start a deep conversation within five minutes of meeting you. She writes frequently on the precarious intersection of faith, psychology, and the messy stories in between. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter: @aundikolber, Facebook: @aundikolberwrites or at her website bravelyimperfect.com

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