Monday, April 6, 2015
One of the most challenging circumstances of hospice chaplaincy is that of parallel processing what is happening in your life with what is happening of what happened in the life of your patient. On several occasions, I have been in patients’ homes who were carrying issues and concerns that reflected my own. This has provided an opportunity for self-reflection that has both benefited my patients and propelled my own inner growth. Perhaps an illustration will enlighten the subject… Background: My father died when I was 10. Back in that day the common grief solution was for the boy to not cry as ‘brave boys don’t cry.’ The other ‘counsel’ was ‘you are now the man of the house.’ Both suggestions or commands (depends on how they are stated) are against human nature. It seemed socially acceptable for adult to cry, but not the male child(ren). It took 20 years before I cried over the loss of my father. My feelings about the ‘counsel’ to not cry and so forth used to cause me anger. Now, I just shake my head at the stupidity of that guidance. Chaplaincy impact: There have been several occasions when a patient would share a life review and share the pain of the loss of a parent when he was at a young age. The patient would share how emotional crippled he felt and how abandoned he felt because he, like me, was told brave boys don’t cry and to be the man of the house. I found it interesting to note that the exact words I was told were the exact words the patient was told. It is at this point that I knew I had choice in my patient relationship. I could have gotten drawn into my patient’s spin on things which would have gotten very messy or I could use my own process to benefit the patient, and my patient's process to propel my own. That's parallel process, and it's a powerful tool that benefits everyone when employed judiciously. It is a teacher, a guide and a mentor. I remember learning this term in a series of Clinical Pastoral Education sessions under the tutelage of Dr. D. James Stapleford, my CPE Supervisor. Jim was a great student and guide into truth about the human condition. His teaching on this subject was not lost on me. I use it today to both benefit my patient’s and to set boundaries so I know when to back off and respect the patient and my own emotions. However, I can say with confidence that in this example my own inner person has healed to the point that I honor the father who I had for 10 brief years rather than grieve his loss. And, I have been able to use my process to effect inner healing in the lives of my patients who struggle at this point. Do some study on parallel processing. It will benefit your chaplaincy and perhaps help you understand why you feel the way you do after visiting with a patient whose life events are similar to yours. Bless you Chaplain Colleagues as the work you do is sacred and we all want to keep our efforts pure in ministry.