An Ode to The Ordinary Therapist with Superpowers: A Reminder of What Matters

Posted by Carmen Richardson on April 18, 2017 in expressive arts therapy, healing, helping professionals category

YOU matter. What you DO matters. We are ordinary folks called to this extraordinary work in our unique way. We each have a story about how we came to this work. Reconnecting with this story builds on the previous blogs by Cheri Spehar on Understanding Trauma Stewardship. Being reminded of what brought us to the work and how we can create strategies to stay robust and strong in the work is an important part of thriving as trauma stewards. One of the ways in which we can stay inspired is to consider and claim the particular gifts or superpowers that we uniquely bring as helpers in this field, and then intentionally using that gift to ground and orient ourselves so that we can be fully present when we are in service of others in need.

Now, we may not think of ourselves as super heroes, but I would suggest that we certainly develop what I liken to “superpowers” that are gifts in the healing realm. These are superpowers that may not be associated with typical super heroes such as astonishing strength, x-ray vision, or abilities to fly or transform ourselves in some way. They are not about money, status, or prestige. These are invaluable superpowers, though, that lend themselves to supporting our clients with transforming their suffering, and this is no small feat. How do we “claim” these powers? The first step would be to make a personal inventory about our personal qualities/superpowers that we believe are important to our work, some of which may include the following:

Compassion - Imagine the power to sit or walk alongside another human being; where they no longer feel alone, but feel, in the deepest parts of themselves, that they are known by another. Imagine.

Listening - Imagine the power to help another feel heard; where we pause to hear with heart and ears, to stop talking, to listen to understand the other. Imagine.

Intention - Imagine the power of awareness; to frame this moment for another so that they take pause and have the power to act on their own volition, on purpose. Imagine.

Attunement - Imagine the power of helping another human being feel felt. To offer the experience of, “I see you. I hear you.”  Imagine.

Creativity - Imagine the power of an imagination that knows no creative bounds! Imagine intentionally using this superpower of creativity by inviting others to engage with the arts, to transform their relationship with their hurts, their suffering. This superpower has the potential to tap into the life force within. Imagine.

Love - Imagine the power of love in action. As helpers, administering the medicine of solicitude in the work of therapy. Radical. Imagine.

A second step towards owning or claiming our superpowers would be to embody it through personification, such as “Compassion”: 

Compassion walks into the room unassumingly, slowly gazing around as she adjusts her glasses to help her read each person before her. She wraps her grandmother’s blue shawl loosely around her shoulders, knowing, at any moment, she may be offering it to one who is in need of its warmth. Sipping her tea, she slips into the chair next to you. You sense her, and in you, there is a slow-rising, warm and expansive sensation of feeling understood. Your heart rate slows, tears form, and you take a deep full breath of air. She stays as long as is necessary, knowing just the right moment when she can sip on her tea again and when she can offer you a cup of tea. Compassion leaves a trail of invisible glitter - though you cannot see it, you feel it, are changed by it, and it follows you wherever you go. Once you have experienced the sensation of the glitter within and her warm blue shawl around you, you will never forget it.

A third step would be to ask ourselves as helpers, how can I use these superpowers as resources for myself to support me with thriving in my work while being in service of others?

IMAGINE, if each one of us cultivated and fine tuned just one of these superpowers and offered it to the world? Imagine. And here we are, just ordinary human beings, who are called to be of service to others as helpers in extraordinary ways. Bringing these superpowers to a world in desperate need of what we have to offer - that is what matters. Your superpowers matter. YOU matter.   

Thank you to all the “ordinary” helpers who intentionally and consciously utilize their superpowers in service of those in need of healing. To close, I leave with you these words by Bill Plotkin (2003). May this message be a resource and find its way into your heart as a reminder of the importance of the superpowers you offer:

“The gift you carry for others is not an attempt to save the world but to fully belong to it. It's not possible to save the world by trying to save it. You need to find what is genuinely yours to offer the world before you can make it a better place. Discovering your unique gift to bring to your community is your greatest opportunity and challenge. The offering of that gift - your true self - is the most you can do to love and serve the world. And it is all the world needs.” (Plotkin, 2003, p. 13).

Bill Plotkin

Soulcraft: Crossing Into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche by Bill Plotkin (2003)

About Carmen Richardson

Carmen Richardson is founder and director of Prairie Institute of Expressive Arts, where she offers supervision and training to professionals and community agencies. Carmen is a Certified Trauma Practitioner and a SGLN Associate Trainer. She is a Registered Clinical Social Worker, Registered Canadian Art Therapist, and Registered Expressive Arts Therapist. Carmen Richardson brings over 20 years experience to her private practice working with a range of issues with both adults and children/teens. She has specialized in the assessment and treatment of sexual abuse of children and teens offers individual, family and group therapy.

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