Band-Aids Don’t Work
Band-Aids don’t work. A few years back a colleague of mine and I co-wrote a two-part series on sex, dating, hooking up, and friends with benefits. At that point though I knew the words to write about my hypotheses, I had not really been impacted in a direct way by those lifestyle choices. That all changed a few weeks back when a friend of mine had confessed to recently sleeping with more people than she cared to admit and that it was becoming more and more of an issue in their life.
I was taken aback. I would not have guessed that this was going on, and as I caught myself beginning to overreact, I decided instead to take a few breaths to remain calm. I asked questions. I got more information. As I did, I was reminded of the articles I had previously written. Like a scientist in the midst of an experiment, my untested hypotheses were coming to life before my eyes. Though unlike a scientist, I wasn’t excited. Instead my heart began to sink. While I like to be right, in the face of the pain and confusion that this person was facing, I was wishing I had been wrong.
I listened non-verbally as her eyes shared with me the regret and remorse that she felt. At the same time her words were confusing. Her flippant almost a so-what attitude betrayed what her body was clearly saying. It was as if she was teetering between blissful denial, and the sobering reality of her decisions. What I often forget is that this lifestyle of random sex, unfulfilled hungers, and empty relationships is actually quite common. Probably more common than my naive self wants to realize.
The more that we talked her thick shell of denial began to crack, and I saw the tenderness and brokenness underneath. In that moment, though I may have historically wanted to judge or punish, I instead felt compassion. I felt tender. Even though this is not my particular struggle, I have my own version of brokenness and pain in need of healing. And the brokenness that both my friend and I share is far too deep to be fixed by the Band-Aid of advice, story telling, or judgment.
I offered my friend the same thing that I so often want to receive from others when I am feeling sad, angry, scared, and caught in the grips of shame- understanding. I offered suppport. I offered a willingness to share in the moment. I offered her the space to express without judgment for what she was saying. I was with her in her struggle and yet keenly aware that though I can relate to being broken and experiencing pain, her story is not my own.
Instead of taking on my friend’s pain and robbing her of the opportunity to work through it, I allowed my own memories to surface of the areas in which I feel a similar level of pain. The whole experience was a great reminder for me because I would have historically wanted to fix my friend and not see it instead as an opportunity to promote my own healing, even if ever so briefly, by letting my thoughts drift to my own areas of struggle.
The hidden side of life is the co-voyaging that happens with friends traveling through life’s hurts together- learning from, supporting, and challenging one another along the way. The mutual approach to life that I choose to take has been greatly influenced by my work as a therapist. At CLE, the counseling center where I work, the staff believes that as therapists we are no better than the clients that we see. We believe that mutuality in relationship is among the most important factors to seeing change, growth, and transformation to occur for both client and therapist!
By owning that reality of what works professionally and taking that to my personal relationships, I allow myself to be touched, transformed, and changed in ways that I would have previously overlooked. I allow healing to occur at a much deeper level than simply looking for a Band-Aid handout of advice for my problems. I am hungry for more closeness in my personal relationships and have tasted what that is like through my professional work. The more I am in situations to risk being fully vulnerable and more fully alive, the more likely it is that that hunger for closeness I have will be met through relationship with others.