If we are to #AllowAllPossibilities as helping professionals, sometimes that means stretching beyond our comfort zones and our ideas about what we “know.” I worked with children in the child protection system for only a year and a half, but I heard and witnessed some pretty strange things. Trauma creates circumstances in the physical world that the mind cannot fully process. The world is no longer safe and we innately take measures to protect ourselves. Shock, for example, is a protective response to an acute traumatic event. When traumatic conditions persist over time, humans cope through changes in their mental state. Many of these states have been given diagnostic codes and labeled as mental disorders. This is western medicine’s approach to helping people who are having trouble living in our physical world after trauma. To some extent this is okay, but I think there are some circumstances where non-traditional approaches may be more helpful.
Sometimes it is okay to believe that something beyond our logic is happening, even if we cannot explain it.
Here are a few examples from my work in the child protection system:
I was eating dinner at a restaurant with a child in the foster care system. He was 4 years old at the time. I left the table to use the restroom, which was located in a hallway. As I walked toward the bathroom I saw one of the servers in the hallway and another man. I thought it was a man, but I was only sort of paying attention. Then the person walked into the women’s bathroom and I had a half-thought that was something like, “oh, okay, not a man.” I walked into the bathroom and entered the stall next to this person. It was very quiet and I thought the person was just shy. I did my business and came out of the stall to wash my hands. There was a mirror above the sinks and a full-length mirror on the wall next to the sinks. As I washed my hands, I saw a movement in the full-length mirror out of the corner of my eye, but I didn’t hear anything. I turned around to see what caused the movement. There was no one there and I suddenly realized there was no one in the bathroom. I looked under the stalls. No feet. This seemed very strange to me, but I brushed it off and went back to the table. I sat down at the table and the foster child said, in a matter-of-fact way, “there’s a ghost sitting next to me.” The foster mom was quick to dismiss his statement, but I sat there dumbfounded. I fully believed him.
I worked with another foster family with a set of siblings who had suffered severe emotional trauma. One of the siblings told the foster mom that there was a ghost who lived in the foster home and wouldn’t leave him alone. He told her the ghost’s name. The ghost had the same name as the man who killed himself in that house a few years before and the foster mom had never spoken to the boy about the former owner. Another one of the boy’s siblings had “imaginary” friends. These were assumed to be hallucinations related to her trauma. She was diagnosed, institutionalized, and given drugs to stop the the hallucinations. But what if they were not imaginary? What if these friends were guides to help this little girl through a time when physical people could not be counted on for support?
I know several fully functioning adults who can see, hear, and feel spirit guides, people who have crossed over, angels, and ghosts (spirits who have not gone into “the light”). They (we) are not diagnosed with schizophrenia or dissociative identity disorder or any other mental illness. They (we) are, in some circles, labeled as “highly gifted,” “intuitive,” or “psychic.” In other circles, “woo woo” or “crazy.” Healthy, happy children are often open to these experiences as well — before they are taught to keep them secret or ignore them altogether. So what’s the truth? Unfortunately, these things are hard to measure scientifically but I am willing to bet you have at least one story that is hard to explain.
What would happen if we believed the children who are communicating with ghosts and imaginary friends? What if we allowed those experiences to be valid whether or not we could validate them scientifically? What if we allowed ourselves to believe that, as helpers, we are not alone in our helping? What if there are helping professionals on the “other side” who are there to provide support when our clients need it? What if they are there to guide us when we need a little extra help?
I did a quick search on this topic and found this thoughtful blog post by Sue Pease Banitt, LCSW. She tackles the question, "Why do people with high levels of trauma tend to report experiences in nonordinary reality?" Here is a link to her blog. Are you a helping professional who has experienced inexplicable events in your work?
Please share, ask questions, leave comments, suggest topics, and tell stories! I want to hear about your moments of magic, miracles, and synchronicity.
Dare to be immortal.
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