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  • Writer's picturePaula Bude

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

I struggle. I am well acquainted with pain. My practice is built, in many ways, out of my own experience.

During my first ever therapy session as a teenage client, I refused to speak… at all. I still remember that lost feeling. I did not know how to represent with words the overwhelming feelings inside and, the more I tried, the more ashamed and shut-down I felt. Thankfully, I had a therapist who welcomed all of me and invited me on a journey of self-integration. As I learned to acknowledge whatever emotion, sensation or thought I was experiencing, the therapeutic alchemy allowed it to transform into a more whole version of itself. It’s no exaggeration to say that some of my most alive moments have happened in therapeutic space. The therapy I offer today is an overflow of my immense gratitude for the therapy I’ve received.

As my clients disclose their despair, a sense of sacredness wells up in me—the sacredness of resting in authentic connection with someone tenacious enough to be vulnerable about what is real, no matter how painful. I can hardly believe that I have the privilege of creating safe space for this incredible labour of the human spirit. I get to midwife the birth of self-integration, every day. That is why I say that the mundane act of connection is sacred… because it bears witness to the transformation and transmutation that occurs when we offer pain our full attention & presence while learning to befriend ourselves.

This sacred connection requires the labour of encountering our pain in a grounded way - with our hands and feet humbly in the dirt of our reality, pressing into the mud and the rocks that push back against us. The thing about pain is it doesn’t go away if we ignore it. If we don’t answer the door when it knocks, it will knock on another door, and then a window. It will knock until the window breaks. If we refuse to relate kindly to our pain, we’ll find ourselves dealing with suffering. But if we are able to turn toward rather than away from it, receive its message, and relate to it with compassion, then there is opportunity for growth, and healing and integration. This the very best and hardest work of our lives. As a counsellor I help guide and support this work of healing and growing, yet I can only be a healer if I’m willing to be a ‘wounded healer’, meaning that I must be willing do to my own work of turning toward and offering hospitality to my own wounds. My empathy, knowledge and compassion are grown and strengthened through my own experiences of pain and healing.

One of my favourite psychiatrists, Dr Irvin Yalom, writes about the healing that happens for both therapist and client during authentic, therapeutic connection.

He writes about the synchronicity of giving and receiving help, since both the act of receiving nurturance and the act of offering nurturance contribute to our sense of fulfillment. Therapist and client help each other, in their complimentary way.

No wonder I feel gratitude welling up inside whenever I think of my clients. They allow me to be a wounded healer who can fulfill the need to nurture; a need or value that flows naturally out the experience of having received nurture.

Through my experience of psychotherapy, as both client and therapist, I’ve learned that moments of authentic connection can seemingly bend time & space while transporting us, like prodigal children, back home to our unified selves - to our primal sense of ease, equilibrium, and vibrancy. While we may stray many times, once we know the way back, we can always return home to our healthy selves. When I say ‘healthy,’ I mean it in the deepest, fullest sense of the word, which shares etymological root with the words ‘whole’ and ‘holy’. Psychotherapy, really, is a process of integrating our whole, healthy and holy selves. In this age of medical jargon and evidence-based practices, I’m not afraid to say it: ultimately, psychotherapy is a deeply spiritual practice. It’s about connection with oneself and others in a synchronous way. It’s about gritty things like embracing the mess that comes with birthing wholeness. Of course, I use evidence-based tools to facilitate suffering’s transformation into healing connection with self and other, yet the whole is more than the sum of its parts. The synergy of how it all happens still contains both mystery and wonder. You just have to experience it, for it is the act of becoming more fully alive.

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  • Writer's picturePaula Bude

I’ve been avoiding writing on forgiveness since the question “who am I to share on forgiveness?” looms large in my mind. On the other hand, who am I not to think of forgiveness?

As just another suffering person in this world, I’m required to wrestle with it. It’s not so much the overcoming of overwhelming hurts that teaches us about the process of forgiveness; it’s in the daily insults that we may connect with its rhythm. In addition to my own experience, my clients have taught me that as we engage more honestly and compassionately with our wounded parts, we create space to shift our relationship with them.

I notice parts of me stuck in resentfulness, envy and unforgiveness when I scaffold my identity around a wound, as someone who was wounded in such-and-such a way. Years of mindfulness practice and therapy have brought me solace and empowerment by teaching me how to reach for the choice to compassionately relate to my wounded parts rather than to construct my identity around them. 

When I choose to relate to my wounds rather than over-identify with them, I notice that my identity opens up into a spacious sense of self, into a sense of safe refuge that has room to relate to both the hurt self and the self longing for healing and transcendence.

It’s not that I choose transcendence at the expense of the wounded self, it’s more that I allow it to change, in its own rhythm. And change it does once I relate to it with mindful compassion. The original wound does not want to stay stuck and unchanging even if I have insisted on building a rigid identity around it. It protests, it constantly ebbs and flows, and it requires that I offer it some safe space to metamorphosize on its own terms, since the only constant in the world is change. At first, the wound may weep and even demand justice as equal punishment, yet if I’m spacious enough to relate to it with presence, it naturally changes into a sense of readiness for more. More understanding. More freedom. More personal power. More imagination, for, as David Whyte so eloquently expresses,

“to approach forgiveness is to close in on the nature of the hurt itself, the only remedy being, as we approach its raw centre, to reimagine our relation to it”. 

If I relate to my hurt from a differentiated, spacious self that allows me to hold the hurt instead of collapse into it, then I find it easier to imagine myself reaching into the basket of forgiveness as an act of self-nurturance. Forgiveness is more about feeding our own sanity than about ‘doing what is right’, for moralism has yet to offer any real sustenance in this complex world.  Forgetting and absolving the other who wounded us is missing the mark of forgiveness, for it may be wise to take realistic measures that protect ourselves from future hurt, as much as it’s within our control to do so. The point is that we reimagine our relationship with the wound, or hurt, such that our sense of self does not shrink or calcify around the damaging actions of other suffering people.

The question is, how may I embody the sane self that can hold the hurt while touching healing, resilience and personal power?

May we all feel beckoned by this generous self that can hold both the hurt and the healing, without being reduced to either. 

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  • Writer's picturePaula Bude

Updated: Jun 29, 2019

The promise of spring. Mist rising into the busy heat of the day. I breathe it all in on my morning walk by the ocean. Then, suddenly I stop...

In front of me is a monolithic house with huge walls... walls where there could be windows, where there could be openings to let in the joy of ocean, sunlight and sky. I find myself wondering what architect would orient this home so poorly in relation to its location. This stock building, like another file number in an endless catalog, seems oblivious to the awe of its surrounding, fortified and closed off from the beautiful view before it.

I wonder why this image has captured my imagination, and notice how it parallels my inner experience.  Where have I allowed walls where there could be windows? Where am I unnecessarily defended, thus missing out on oh, so much life? Where am I blindly accepting a stock narrative that does not serve me?

It’s not that walls are unimportant as structural elements; it’s that at times I can over-do the wall thing at the expense of more vulnerable openings that allow for an influx of beauty and wonder… and as the calligraphy on one of my favourite necklaces reminds me, ‘wisdom begins with wonder’.

It’s like… the illness that pushed my surgery date down the road, seemingly creating chaos in my overpacked schedule. The walls of ‘resistance to what is’, of the sense that “it shouldn’t be this way”, create a sense of frustration that prevents me from noticing the possibility inherent in this imperfect moment.

Don't Get Stuck!

Yet if I take the time to wisely orient myself toward the current landscape of life, I suddenly see open space for walking, for writing, for wonder. Radical acceptance can be my window, allowing me to notice and appreciate the beauty available to me right now. It’s not that I don’t allow room to notice some momentary sense of loss, helplessness or frustration, it’s that I don’t need to get stuck there. There’s so much more behind that wall—the wall is part of it, sure, and then there’s also the window into the inherent resilience, healing and flexible nature of life unfolding. 

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