Thursday, December 3, 2015

On saying goodbye to students….

I am excited to share with you some more of the most moving goodbyes from one of our amazing therapists,  Cynthia Davis, Ph.D., on the deeper implications of the process of saying goodbye to our dearly loved therapist trainees at Greenhouse Therapy Center….

"As I think of each of you who are moving on to new placements (or who have already moved on), I feel a quick and surprising pang of missing you.  In some cases, it makes sense to me since I have had weekly contact with you, in some cases for many years. In other cases, I have only had occasional contact with you personally, although perhaps I have heard about you through the other supervisors. While I can talk about why I will miss those I see weekly, I find myself reflecting on the general feeling of 'missing' you in the context of our connection through Greenhouse Therapy Center.

"Missing implies that a connection has been made, and in our case there has been connection through our mutual involvement at Greenhouse. I remember when I first started my graduate program at Fuller and met these tender, passionate people that were my colleagues and mentors -- I felt I had rounded a corner and come face to face with my own self. I feel this same feeling with each of you as you have joined us here at Greenhouse to be part of the mission of this place.  It is simplistic to say, but I have enjoyed the sometimes fun, sometimes painful, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes plodding, sometimes rapid revealing of your talents and hearts and uniqueness.

"I think when we connect with a place it has to do with feeling there is a resonance between what we hope to do at that place and what feels like our 'call' or purpose. At Greenhouse, this resonance may be over a love for children, or a feeling of intellectual stimulation, or a belief in the importance of a developmental perspective, or just an enjoyment of the other people here. Such a resonance can contribute to feeling a sense of being at 'home' in its truest sense: a familiarity that leads to an encounter with a deeper sense of self than we might feel in other contexts. And when we feel that resonance, there is a shared joy that makes our own joy in our work ring more clearly, echo more deeply.
"When we resonate with each other and work together on a joint project, there emerges a sense of belonging as well. In the healthiest sense of belonging, we find in each other something familiar--somehow as we see the other, we can see ourselves better too. We identify with each other and sometimes can explore parts of ourselves we hadn’t noticed before or hadn’t valued before. And again, in the safest and clearest of relationships, we can be regulated and explore new aspects of ourselves and feel our own nuances, our own flexibility, our own ability to address challenging feelings and experiences, and our own special strengths.  All of this is the work of identity-building. And connection, resonance and a sense of belonging are the soil for this growth. In the end, it may be that one way to think of identity from a dyadic perspective is to imagine an accumulation of belongings, meaning a multiplicity of selves-in-connection that are uniquely integrated and valued in each individual.
"This growth of self is a two-way street. You may be hearing me say that I have enjoyed watching you grow, and that is by all means true. But I also want to acknowledge that having this connection with you has helped me grow and explore myself more deeply as well. It is part of the beauty of resonance: that we all feel ourselves more deeply when resonance is there.
"But then there is another aspect of being connected to each other. It is a bit more challenging to embrace, yet equally full of joy when we do embrace it.  When we are in relationship there are times when we do not entirely resonate with each other.  These are beautiful individual differences, and yet sometimes they lead us in separate directions.  And it is a good thing to separate and move into new contexts and with new people. Our identities grow as we feel many experiences of belonging, many places we can pursue the things about which we are passionate.  It is important because ultimately, as we experience ourselves in a more differentiated way, we find that we can be at home within ourselves, and carry that sense of home and safety through all our interactions. And yet that separation brings the “missing” feeling.  The resonating bell does not ring in the same way for a time, and this is a loss. This is a loss.
"But in the identity building that we have done together, we also will be forever connected.  Brain research teaches us that the unique qualities of our relationships shape our brains, even in our adult lives. Perhaps we can find a metaphor for our lasting connection in this assertion of our impact in the material world. As mentors, we also have the hope that you will be able to sort out our best selves from the background noise of our own neurotic psyches and take with you something solid and sustaining.  Frederich Nietzche once wrote, 'The most fortunate author is one who is able to say as an old man that all he had of life-giving, invigorating, uplifting, enlightening thoughts and feelings still lives on in his writing, and that he himself is only the gray ash, while the fire has been rescued and carried forth everywhere.' In a similar way, I  hope that as my material presence in your lives recedes, what is good---fiery (producing warmth, available to gather around when the world seems cold, present to add energy as you try to transform things that don’t work into things that might work better)---will be carried forward into your future.
"So, I will miss you! I do miss you already! Thank you for all that you have given to your clients, your families, and to the growth and development of Greenhouse. Thank you for your passion and commitment. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us.  It has been a blessing. 

Enjoy your next steps.
Carry fire with you.
Leave deep footprints wherever you go. 
Say with confidence, 'It mattered that I was here.'

There may be others who will use your fire and your footprints to find their way home."

--- Cynthia Davis, Ph.D.
    Licensed Psychologist and Supervisor at Greenhouse Therapy Center

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