The greatest act of love we can show ourselves or someone else is to be fully present!
In a client session yesterday, a client with whom I have been working for about 6 months, whom I am supporting as he explores some very painful parts of his life which have led to almost debilitating anxiety, asked me "what are some of your darknesses, what are some of the hard challenges you have faced that you have had to work through?"
He was not prying, or distracting from his own processes, and because I am not a traditional MFT (which allows me more freedom to self disclose with my clients) I decided to share honestly and openly with this client, hoping it would help him feel less alone in his own suffering, and show that I am as human as he is, and that my gains have been as hard earned as his. I shared with him some of the ways in which my life has been impacted by severe trauma, incredible loss, fear, pain, chronic illness, abandonment, rejection, etc. It wasn't a sob story, but he asked honestly, so I shared honestly. I also shared that years of meditation and the kind of healing work he is doing with me in our sessions, are exactly what got me (and get me) through some very dark and painful years of my own life, and that as I have continued to unearth a deeply buried sense of self love, I became more and more available for my own healing processes. This self love has allowed me to be present with my own suffering, and being present with my own suffering has further restored my sense of self love.
Following my sharing, we sat in silence for a moment, both taking in what I had just said, being present with what was there in the room- his suffering and my own- and how we were both encouraged by each others presence. At one point, after expressing how helpful it was to hear my story, and how it really helped him remember he is not alone, he also said, "Wow, it is so helpful to see how far you have come. It is encouraging to know I could find my way there too. It gives me hope."
And what is so beautiful to me about my work with this client, and the many other client I am privileged to support, is how I see them learning to be present with the whole of their lives: who they are, their suffering and even their joy. They are learning to love and accept themselves, with grace, grit, courage and open hearts. This act of being present is their own greatest act of self love. They are writing their own self love stories, in the same way I have been writing mine all these years.
Simultaneously, this is the power of love, and the power of being present. They heal us!