Can You See Me Now?

My heart sank…

At the end of the session, my client had asked if she could purchase a copy of my book from me. Normally, I would be pleased that someone was interested in my book, but this was different. I knew this client was a conservative Christian and was worried that learning I was a lesbian could diminish what was a very strong therapeutic connection. I love this client. She has the most beautiful, giving heart. She has been through such dark times in the past few years and yet, her strong faith has carried her through. I deeply admire that about her. I knew I did not want to lose her as a client.

Yesterday, she returned for her first session since purchasing the book. She shared feelings of being saddened that I was married to Brandi. She talked about gay people as broken in a world filled with brokenness. It was painful to keep my body…and my mouth, still. I had a lot of “But I…” phrases and Bible verses that wanted to slip off the end of my tongue. I wanted to defend myself and my marriage. But, I remembered my favorite Bible verse from the book of Psalms. Be still and know that I am God. Be still, Julie, just be still. And more than stillness, I listened. I listened to her story, how life experiences brought her to her current thoughts and feelings. At the end of the session she indicated she wanted to continue doing therapy together. I could see that therapy would spring from this place of real authenticity and perspective taking.

Brene Brown did a live Facebook feed this week in response to the violence in Charlottesville, where she talked about the importance of perspective taking. It reminded me of the value in taking off my own glasses and putting on another’s glasses, to see the world through their lens. It is something I try to do in every session with my clients. And after thirty years in the profession, it is something that is not a far reach for me. Until looking through someone else’s lens makes me view my marriage differently. My marriage, one of the best parts of me. My marriage, which has been through its own rocky terrain. My marriage, that with work and commitment has flourished. When people spend time with us, they often say they feel the love and joy enter the room when we do. Now, perspective taking makes me squirm.

But, I believe, perspective taking is essential for repairing relationships and for healing our country. This is especially true when it is about issues that are a part of our soul. We need to be willing to see where that person is coming from and how life’s journey has brought them to this place. It does not mean we have to agree. In fact, the outcome may mean we agree to disagree. But the process of taking another’s perspective will allow us grow in ways we would not if we only listen to those who sound like us and think like us.

I am so grateful to my client for having the courage and strength to come to her session, to share her views honestly and respectfully, and to value the relationship beyond those views. While it was difficult, it truly was such a gift.