It felt like a long trip home from the ACA Hawaii convention this past week. My red eye allowed me time to think, to reflect and plan. While others slept, I contemplated my take home messages and in this case message.
The first keynote speaker, a humble humanitarian and super-sized filmmaker by the name of Morgan Spurlock offered a strong message that felt personal to me. Morgan delivered a presentation that was essentially his story; his beginnings and the progression of his passions, the challenges and triumphs of the work he has undertaken and the pertinent issues his work has raised. Morgan openly displayed his emotions largely through tales surrounding his family, his first kiss, life and death and his gratitude for all of the wonderful individuals he has in his life. Each person has offered him a gift and he has embraced these teachings and shaped his life, as he would like it to be. Morgan left the audience with a take home message that I may never forget. Its power and simple complexity are with me as I practice, as I write and as I listen to my clients. “Share your scars,” is what he said, which is what we ask our clients to do all day long.
There is vulnerability in this message, to put your ‘scars’ out there takes courage because there are no guarantees of how you and your story will be received. There is a connecting power for us all and perhaps most of all, there is a challenge. A challenge to show yourself, who you are, what has hurt you, what has made you happy, what has shaped you... It felt to me like a keep it real, be genuine, be authentic, be human acknowledgement. I have a lot of gratitude for this message and this reminder that we are all in this world together. That we all endure, triumph and fail at times in life.
Listening to Morgan speak, like previous great speakers I have heard before, I felt a connection. His stories felt real. They felt relatable. I too shared a teacher that changed my life, I remember my first kiss with such detail, I have had ideas rejected and supported, and I have felt the sadness and pain of loss when I lost my own grandma (my, ‘Toots,” if you will). When we share ourselves, our stories and experiences, it offers commonality and vicarious teaching moments. Sharing offers a common bond and this can be therapeutic moving a long way towards developing the all-important therapeutic relationship we share with those we work with. This relationship is the essence and most important facet of how I practice, which is perhaps why this message resonated with me so greatly. While the pros and cons of self-disclosure and blurred boundaries are well taught, his talk reminded me that there is fallibility within us all and we all struggle sometimes, (yes even therapists). This feels importantly universal and yet, for the most part we share so little of ourselves. Why?
In the most powerful and affecting presentations I watched in Hawaii there was a common thread. The presenter shared something of himself or herself; they told stories of success and challenge in their lives and in practice and these anecdotes have stayed with me. Our stories, our lives are unique to each of us and there is an incredible power in those moments when things are radiant and in those periods in all of our journeys when things get dark and we feel alone and this was captured in this personal key note presentation and I am grateful for that.
So as you consider, “The Spurlock Effect,” think about your own story and your own scars. Then ask yourself what am I going to do with them?
______________________________________________________________________Christian Billington is an LPC/LMFT candidate. He is passionate about end of life issues, grief and loss, disaster mental health, helping the helpers and the development of training and support to better prepare the emergency services for what they experience in the field. Christian has a modest private practice that can be found here www.patchlanecounseling.com