No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. - John Donne
Trip-sitting for a dear friend: during
"I feel the capacity to care is the thing which gives life its deepest significance." Pablo Casals
"Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." U Le Guin
This is the second post in a three-part sequence. The first can be seen at "Trip-sitting for a dear friend: before". So yesterday was the trip itself. It went really well. Such a deep privilege to be beside someone for those extraordinary hours when they're out in the oceans of 'mind'. And what did I learn? That it feels like good 'trip-sitting' is about love, presence, awareness, calmness, encouragement, kindness, familiarity with the landscape. I think it's got lots of overlap with being a good 'trauma therapist'. Here again there's so much about kindness, staying steady when the spray of another's apparently overwhelming experience is whipping in one's face, the heart-open bravery of encouraging steering into the challenging storm when this looks like the right way to go, familiarity with the different emotional/spiritual 'weather' one might experience, courage, optimism, warmth. It's not so different either from being a good parent, when one's child is facing challenges that can daunt them, threaten to overwhelm them, and yet also present such huge opportunities for learning, blessings, growth.
Not that yesterday's trip was much storm-wracked. Yes, deep pain at times ... opening to the pain of humankind, the holocaust, so much ... but opening, not terrified. And deep, deep love. Love for family, for friends, for the world ... tenderness, softness, heart-opening like sunlight. And beauty too, of the music, of life, of gratitude. And for whole chunks of the trip, my eyes too were wet with tears ... but of 'walking beside', not at all 'not present, not attending'. A deep privilege to be with, to feel in tune with. And we had the music ... the playlist they'd chosen ... playing out into the room. I found myself, a bit like a part-time disc jockey, adjusting the volume at times, as it varied a bit unpredictably from track to track. It was good to be able to hear the music they were listening to ... not essential, but helpful.
And it was very good to have had the trip experiences I have had ... the dozen or so LSD trips many years ago ... and the eight psilocybin truffle trips last year. Yes, I could have trip-sat without having had this personal experience, but that would be like teaching cooking without ever having eaten the dish. Talking about what flavour it might be from reading about it, not from having personally tasted it. Yes, I'm confident with the experience I've had that I could work with a trip-sitter who had little personal experience ... just like, with the experience I've had working in therapy, I could work as client with a 'poor' therapist. I'd need them to keep their mouth closed most of the time and let me get on with it, but I could certainly do it. But why choose to work with a poor therapist .... or a poor trip-sitter.
Don't get me wrong here. I don't think personal experience is the most important quality of a good trip-sitter, I just feel that it's of real importance & helpfulness. However, I think other qualities are even more important. Jut as I'm very clear that the research evidence shows that experienc of therapy is not at all the most important attribute of a highly effective psychotherapist.
More to follow ...
And for the third in this three-part sequence, see "Trip-sitting for a dear friend: after"