Now That I Help People

I've been doing one-on-one peer work for about 18 months now.

Occasionally people ask me if I'm ever triggered when working with multiples. Sometimes it's a prospective client, because they're concerned about over-burdening me with their memories and problems, because so many of us were taught that others' wellbeing comes before our own, always. Sometimes it's a friend or an acquaintance who's just curious. Sometimes it's a colleague, curious about my school-of-hard-knocks experience.

The answer is, yes, obviously. No one with abuse history can go a lifetime without being triggered.

But my triggers are different. I know it sounds like a radically impossible statement, but I actually get triggered more when someone inadvertently acts like my mother, than by hearing an abuse memory -- because I find the tendrils of my mother's poison have stretched further and earlier into my gray matter than the messages I absorbed from being abused or trafficked. I know it's not the same for everyone, but that's how it is for me.

Recently, I have encountered a pain I would never have anticipated; the pain of being in the other chair (so to speak) when I'm helping people. It brings me back to the fuckery that happened with my helper, which is already (absurdly) 3+ years past.

The roles have reversed. Now I'm in the helper's chair, not the helpee's chair. Now I'm the one listening, not the one talking. Now I'm the one asking questions and making observations, not reaching out for help and clarity. Now I'm the one getting the emails, the text messages, the Facebook messages. And the only thing I can think sometimes, when I finish up a session with a client, where I've had the same rush of compassion that I always have when I speak to people one on one, is, How could you??? How could you leave me that way? (about my ex-helper)

It's not even that she left (despite the fact that she said she would never leave, which is shitty enough in itself - either that she'd say it to begin with, if/because she didn't actually know if she could follow through on it...forever is a long time, or that she'd say it and not follow through on it).

It's that the way that she left my life was so fantastically bad that it managed to target and completely blow up so many of the wounded places in me.

There are ways to leave someone, and they're all going to suck to some extent, and they'll be painful, but when done well they can be less painful when everyone is treated like a human being and with all the honesty, dignity, and care that was given up to that point already.

And then there was...whatever that was. (Part 2)

I'm not stupid. I've seen - very clearly, I might add - quite a few of the potential pitfalls that come with doing this kind of work, whether you have a PhD, your therapists' license, unprofessional lived experience, or whatever. When you are in a helping profession the temptation is there - because you care, because you're a good human who has appropriate empathy and compassion for hurting people - to want to save, to want to fix, to want to become immersed in your role and take it too far. The temptation to yield to the savior complex is strong.

If you're in any way a person who doesn't already know your intrinsic value, and you haven't yet found a way to know that you are needed and wanted and welcome on this earth without having to earn it or prove it, I can understand getting sucked into this work as a form of validation and recognition. (Especially if you're any good at it.)

But the problem is, if you do that, it's not what the clients need, and it has become subtly self-serving, and it can slowly start to distort your ability to make healthy decisions for anyone. And if you're backed by a cult of hierarchical authority (cough *evangelicalism*) you have every reason not to look at these problems and just blame it on a "sick" person "judging you" (and who do they think they are anyway) whenever they try to bring it up.

At any rate, I am still getting back into the swing of writing regularly again, and I don't think my thoughts are coming across as clearly as they will once I've gotten more practice, but this is a place I've been surprised by, as I've entered into the helping role in the lives of the people I'm privileged to work with lately. (And it is a privilege.)

I'm sure there will be more on this at other various times.



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