Posted by: Beverly Davidson, LMSW | January 18, 2013

Be mindful of your power

Yesterday I was struck by how much power I had in my profession. I met a young woman and her baby for the first time. She told me so much of her life story, one that was filled with anguish, trauma, and sadness. I had never met her, and I was there to determine how I could help and her new baby become a stronger unit. (Honestly, what I saw was an enormous bond between the two, in spite of the odds against her). I was in awe of how much she shared with me during this initial meeting. Did she do so because she trusted me and thought I could help? Did she do it because she thought she should, since she had been referred to me in a “non-voluntary” manner? Did she share because she was so used to being traumatized that telling one more person had become par for the course, devoid of meaning and affect? I really couldn’t tell, but I sat intently and quietly as she told me of being so terrorized at some points in her life that she thought she’d never reach the age she is. All I could do was hold her baby close, as if I was holding her, so that she could feel my compassion for her struggles. All I could do was remind her that for today, she was alive, safe, and had been given an amazing gift in her son. A son who so clearly adored her as I watched him gaze into her eyes and follow her every breath.

I sometimes forget the power that I, and helping professionals in general, have. There is much I could do with the information she shared, either for good or harm. The stories I hear, if shared with the wrong people at the wrong time, could fundamentally alter a person’s life. The reactions I give to someone when they divulge such personal heartache could forever change a person’s trust in the world. This kind of power is not one that I aspire to have or even need, but knowing that it is there helps me to respect and honor it, and keep it sacred.

Perhaps after getting to know her I’ll understand the motives around sharing so much so quickly, and be able to help her recreate her beliefs about the world and the people in it. No matter the motives, I will try everyday to be mindful of such power, and to never take advantage of it.

What a wonderful lesson we all could remind ourselves of now and again.

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