Dave: I do family consultation interviews in Adult Inpatient units and at Residential Treatment Centers for adolescents with people whose lives are very disrupted. Oftentimes the hospitalized patient has lost membership in their families. That is to say the family has given up on them. Bad bad families? No. Sad families, despondent families, families with trauma in multiple generations. Families with broken spirit. Part of the reason for the consultation interview is to find out how much of a family spirit there is. Sometimes the consultation interview rekindles what is left of the family spirit and renews the membership of the hospitalized person.
Often the person has given up on themselves, their lives are ordered by being a patient. In order to belong to the family they have assumed the family mind set, which says they are incompetent or don’t belong. They likely view themselves as an object, an ‘it’.
I take a few minutes to consider their relationship to themselves. They do not know how to love themselves. I attempt to induce it. Loving one’s self is not a very Christian thing to do. But I believe loving one’s self to be crucially important to health. Think about it. What kind of a relationship do you have with yourself, with your whole self? What does it mean to love one’s self?
When my children were infants, I had the wonder-filled pleasure of feeding them whenever I had a chance. I would cradle them with my left arm and hold the bottle with my right hand. I would find their eyes locked on mine. We would hold the gaze for long moments. I felt as though I was nourishing their bodies with the milk, but nourishing their souls with my eyes. They were feeding from my soul. They needed to be nourished by my soul.
That is step one in learning to love yourself. Look into your own eyes as you looked into your infant’s eyes. You can do it with your imagination or you can do it in a mirror.
Here is a poem about encountering the Self.
GREET YOUR SELF
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
“Love after Love” from COLLECTED POEMS 1948-1984 by Derek Walcott.