Monday, November 23, 2009

Be an External Believer

The point of this blog is the importance of having an "external believer." It's the most important work I do with clients. Once you benefit from this believer, you have an obligation to be one for someone else.

In the film "Precious," one of the messages is the power of the "external believer," someone whose belief in you makes you willing to stretch for your possibilties. Its critics have struggled and generally failed to find the right posture about "Precious" because they have no frame of reference for a life so desperately lived. You'd think, though, they'd remember the hands that helped them find their way.

My dissertation was on how survivors of extreme trauma come through coping to resilience. Studies show: (a) traumatized children benefit from surrogate love from a positive adult model; (b) the effects of trauma are less if the child can recruit others' regard and attention; (c) the efforts to help a child overcome effects of abuse will not be successful unless he also works at it; and finally, (d) it is important not to let the individual stay a victim. He or she must do the work of recovery.

There. You've just attended the movie.

The genius of director Lee Daniels was that he so perfectly captured the despair of living in that environment. It recalled his early life. . .mine, too. My family was that poor and our life that ugly. I spent eight years in a children's home and am absolutely the product of people who believed in me. They were mostly the nuns in the orphanage and my high school. They saw and fostered my best qualities and threw open the windows of learning and a stable life to me. Sandwiched between my years at the home were also nuns in my small steel mill town who saw me through indifferent eyes. They were brutal and uncaring, doing their jobs without hope or light. I might have tipped over that razor's edge into poverty's darkness had they been my sole guides.

It was probably predictable that my life's passion would be to help others out of the holes that get punched into their lives, whether it's a career disaster or a struggle to find out "who I am, exactly." I am their "external believer." I see their possibilities with brilliant clarity and point them in that direction. I push and demand accountable action from them, but I know they can realize their dreams because their possibility path is usually so clear to me. There is no point, I believe, in squatting in today's mess.

Clients are grateful after they've done their work and found themselves in a new place, and when I shamelessly enroll them to help current strugglers, I tell them their obligation is to the universe to help someone else, not to me. After all, in working with them, I was really saying "thank you" to Sister Vita, Sister Englebert, Sister Miriam John, Sister Peter Fournier, Sister Alma, Sister Ann Dominic and Sister Isabel. It's a pretty big roster and I have a ways to go in living my gratitude to them.

Be an external believer of others. "Possibility" is the best gift you can give them.

No comments: