Monday, December 19, 2011
Compassion Never Grows Old
A few weeks ago I came across an article about Hedda Bolgar, a 102 year old psychotherapist who is still seeing clients, lecturing and studying the unconscious mind. Bolgar says that she is
"eternally fascinated by the unconscious, where she says pesky problems hide." She says that she loves to listen, to understand, even when people are not saying, or, I infer, don't exactly know, what it is that is bothering them, shaping them, effecting them. I am moved by this, by how it is that after decades of listening to emotional pain, to trauma, to confusing character issues, Hedda Bolgar is, in fact, glowing.
Instead of presenting to the world a cynical view of human nature, of the stubbornness of many psychological issues, Bolgar seems to exude a generosity of spirit and hope. That we do have an unconscious mind, that it is worthy of study, that much of what pains or troubles us, or gets in the way of our growth and progress can be discovered and healed through talking. I continue to like the message that we can take a look at ourselves without doing it harshly. That being understood and allowing all our feelings can open doors to better ways of feeling, coping and living.
The ability to talk, to consider new ideas, points of view, to study ourselves without lashing out at ourselves or others, to release our aggression in productive and not impulsively hurtful ways are not only hallmarks of resiliency and maturity, but outcomes of good therapy. In our quest to live and be better, I think Hedda Bolgar's message of consistency, dedication to the craft and compassion is a strong one.
In the age of the Internet and texting where people can anonymously discharge feelings, make connections without having to show up, can weigh in and click off, Bolgar reminds me of the staying power that is possible. And that being with ourselves, and with others in real time has endless value. And that compassion never grows old. We can study our actions, our motives, our histories, our psyches with a curious and gentle eye. And we can study those of others with the same compassion, even if we are hurt, or lost or frustrated or don't agree.
Our stories are worth telling, worth hearing and we need not know exactly where we are headed in order to start.