telling the truth you could not face
struck instead of tended.
- put the fire out (unburn)
— Nayyirah Waheed, Salt. (2013)
A client brought this poem to session the other week, and I found it a lovely compression of the depths and expansive possibilities of therapy. We are all wounded. We have wounded, and we have been wounded. Wounder/woundee. This poem suggests evocatively how to heal, to move beyond, to integrate through unharming - it defines making amends by tending to the missteps we have all experienced.
In this particular session, the client identified and gave meaning to her own relationship with poetry. In the time we have worked together, she has often quoted from poems and songs, but in this session, she acknowledged for the first time the profound and meaningful impact poetry has meant to her – how poetry often provided a solid structure to gently house her own internal chaos.
Through our wounds, we often develop a very narrow scope of who we are and who we might me. We develop core beliefs around those experiences at the expense of other parts of our selves. Trauma elicits myopic and convincing beliefs around victimhood, failure, self worth. By tending to what has been harmed, we reveal and often rediscover other facets of what makes us who we truly are. This client redefined her core beliefs by facing not only the story of her trauma, but by also – and, perhaps, far more importantly - allowing her poet identity to emerge. Like this gentle and fierce poem, my client ruptured a core belief around trauma victim to expand that she is also a lover of poetry, also a wordsmith, also a truthteller – like the ripple of a pebble striking flat water, she expanded her own sense of self to so many more possibilities.
She experienced the essence of her own healing through the unharming and unburning, and this poem was a magical gateway to that place.