When Spiritual Psychology Goes Right
As a Pagan Minister I receive a lot of requests from people looking for spiritual insight and help during times of trials and challenges. Often times, these requests come from people who are out of state or even overseas. They can be people who live in areas that are highly saturated in a Christian community, or military people who want one of their own to talk to.
Imagine being in crisis and wanting someone to speak with in spiritual terms, but the only available help are Christian Ministers who don’t understand your pagan beliefs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say the minister only wanted them to pray for salvation and to convert from their wicked pagan ways. If they would do that, their problems would disappear. For many, this isn’t the help they’re looking for and in fact, it causes some to feel even more helpless than they were prior to the “Spiritual Counseling” session.
I’ve been blessed with being one of those people who others find easy to talk to. I’ve had so many conversations with complete strangers who say “I have no idea why I’m telling you all this, I don’t even know you”. But I’m honored when they end our conversation with “Thank you. Talking to you really helped”.
I’d like to share one such conversation from a lady who found herself in both these situations and contacted me. She has given me permission to share her story, but I’m going to hide her identity. We’ll call her Sarah.
Now Sarah eMailed me tentatively sharing a small piece of her story. She had “hit rock bottom” having lost her main income, much like many other people around the world. She lost her home and was forced to move due to foreclosure. She didn’t get a home that was over her head or out of her reach when she purchased the property. She was never struggling financially and she and her son had a comfortable upper middle class life. When the world crumbled, their entire living experience turned upside down and her family began to fall apart. She lost hope and fell into despair.
After a few email exchanges, she finally opened up..still in email. She had been living in a 3,200 sqft home, her son was an honor roll student and they loved to travel. After the foreclosure the only place they could find that would rent to them was a 600 sqft apartment in an unsafe part of the town she lived in. Her honor roll student began failing in school, he was angry all the time, and eventually he was arrested for drug possession. Every place she goes to find work, she’s told she’s over qualified or she’s been out of work for so long that her skill set is no longer current. On top of that she’s 55 and feels she’s discriminated against because of her age. (Sadly many studies out in the last year have proven that situation to be true).
She turned to local charitable organizations for help, but it seems many come with a catch. Come to our evening service and listen to our Preacher speak and then we’ll help you. She found a free counseling clinic, once she arrived, she discovered it was run by a Christian group who as she put it “continually drilled into her head that prayer and Jesus would solve her problem. When she let them know she wasn’t Christian, she was pagan; their “sales pitch” became more intense.
After a while she finally gave up. Her town isn’t a large place and the resources are limited. She didn’t have the finances to drive to a large town for help, as that meant driving over an hour in any direction find that larger community. Her despair became deeper.
It’s hard getting someone to call you on the phone when they’re at rock bottom. They worry about the long distance call, they worry about the security of giving you their phone number so you can call them. They already feel like a burden and even though this is what you do, they feel guilty about taking your time and not being able to compensate you for that time. You can tell someone who has paid their own way their entire life that it’s ok; they offer pro-bono support to those in crisis; but that doesn’t stop them from feeling guilty and shying away from charitable help.
Each time we talked in email, I gave her my number and told her to call me if she ever felt she could or would. To my surprise one day, I found her number in my inbox. I was so relieved she had made this step; it really was a sign to me that she still had some form of hope left. So I arranged to speak with her early the next morning.
We spoke for several hours. Mostly I let her vent. She went through anger, tears, frustration, more anger and at one point it seemed she nearly fell apart. Trying to show compassion and support over the phone isn’t easy when you can’t see someone’s face, or touch their hand. Even handing them a Kleenex can be a sign of support and caring for some. Hard on the phone, harder in email.
Unlike the previous spiritual counseling she had attempted we talked about karma, free will, choices, reincarnation, spiritual lessons and past lives. We talked about what she believes and what I believe and how the two are the same or very similar. We talked about how her spiritual path hadn’t left her, how she’s not alone and she still has her spiritual guides and teachers right there trying to help and talk to her. Something the Christian Ministers/Volunteers would never do.
After about an hour and 30 minutes, I noticed that her words and her voice were changing. I didn’t make mention of it, I simply kept listening asking questions (which were basically what do you think that means) and guiding her into answering her own questions. You see, it doesn’t matter what I believe, or what I see or think is happening. What matters is what the individual person believes and how they perceive the events in their life. If they can answer their own questions, without frustrating them; they feel empowered. And that’s a really big thing when you feel like you’re in a bottomless pit.
About two hours into the conversation she was laughing. There’s something to be said for “letting it all out”. It’s hard to deal with challenges when you keep that energy bottled up inside. It feeds and can fester on your energy, both spiritual and physical. It’s hard to see, hard to understand and hard to deal with and mostly; hard to overcome. Being able to “let it out” can help an individual release all the negative energy and empty the bucket of despair so you don’t feel weighed down and weak.
One of the biggest talents I try to teach my students who want to be teachers and leaders in their pagan communities is the ability to shut up…and listen! Really listen and hear what someone is trying to say. Help guide their words only when needed and only when you think they’re having trouble expressing the thought. When you allow someone to speak for them self and you pay attention to their story; you are giving them respect and compassion. Something they may desperately need at that moment in their life.
But there comes a point when they have “let it all out” that you do need to start controlling the direction of the conversation. It takes experience to know when that time is, because each person is different. But generally, when someone has poured their soul out to you and they start getting quiet or running out of the things to say; that’s your cue to begin helping them fill that empty bucket of despair with positive energy.
I tried to get her to turn her attention from the frustration of the past and present to the future. We talked about what she wants to do, what she needs to do, what she can do and what she’s going to do.
When we talked about what she wanted vs. needed; she really had to think things through and she mentioned she had never even thought about doing that. She realized that what she wants is in the past and she doesn’t really want it anymore. But she’s had no one to talk to and no one to be a sounding board and she hadn’t even realized that what she had been holding in her heart and mind weren’t even real any longer.
Then when we talked about what she needed vs. what she can do, she started to get sad and frustrated again. Until we focused on all the little things she can do to get moving toward the things she can’t do immediately. It maybe as simple as rearranging some priorities or steps. But there’s always little things that can help you get to the “big” things that seem out of reach. She put the sad frustration aside again.
Nearly 3 hours of talking and the last 40 minutes or so she sounded so much better and mentioned several times that for the first time in a year, she feels empowered and energized to get to work again. And she plans on working on new things instead of living in the past. Not only were the things she said different, but the tone in her voice was different. It wasn’t weak and filled with struggle and frustration. She felt empowered. That’s when you know it’s ok to leave the conversation and let the individual put the steps “they” designed into physical action.
The next evening, Sarah called to tell me about the progress she had made on the plans we talked about. Now first that was a big thing from my perspective. She didn’t email me to give me an update. She “called” me! She had made about 20 phone calls during the day and she was able to marked 10 steps off her 30 step list. The only reason she stopped was because it was after 6pm and the people she still needed to talk to had gone home from work.
One thing she said that really hit home was that until that initial call, she felt as though she had no one to talk to and being able to get it all out released all the frustration and negativity and freed her soul to rise up again. Frankly if it hadn’t been for my fellow ministers and some great ideas from them, I’m not sure I could have gotten her to call me in the first place. Even Ministers need someone to talk to! 😉
Her next update came with excitement and relief. Her son was released by a sympathetic Judge, who took their fall into despair into great consideration. But he was released into a mandatory drug rehabilitation program where he could find someone to talk to as well. Thankfully, Sarah added, it’s not a Christian organization and after talking to the counselor who was assigned to his case, she discovered the counselor is also pagan. It’s amazing how something can fall into place with the right focus of energy.
Others In Need
Stories like this aren’t unique or unusual in the Pagan community. Many people feel they are segregated in the world, especially if they’re pagan and live in the United States. The land of the free that was based on the freedom of religion has slowly succumbed to those principles as the Christian majority has risen in power and dominance.
Sadly I hear about these kinds of frustrations all the time. People who are home bound for one reason or another have few pagan resources to rely on. They turn to the internet for help and communication. There are many more “Sarah” stories out there. And you can help them find someone to talk to.
These are the people and the stories behind our recent campaign to Help Others and Keep Hope Alive.
If this story or the military stories we shared in “Sometimes A Smile Can Empower Someone To Survive” have touched you in some way, if you gain empowerment into your own life from the articles and daily messages here on Springwolf Reflections, consider helping those who may not be as fortunate as you right now.
It may not seem like much, but every bit counts and helps. Your contribution can be made securely through PayPal! And we do offer something in return. Click here to view all our perks and select the one that you’d like to receive! Won’t you help us, help others in our community who need it most?
© 2012 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Springs Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.