Learning About Self

This has been one of those tough weeks that, nonetheless, yields a whole bunch of learning and insight.

On Monday I forgot that I was to present a Clinical Report (ie, a verbatim) of a pastoral encounter to my group.  Not good.  Luckily, one of my CPE peers was able to present a report she had written in advance of her next presentation, and we switched dates.  Later that same day I had individual supervision with my supervisors in which we talked about the ways in which forgetting to prepare a Clinical Report may be a product of my excitement about next year’s congregational internship and eagerness to move through the Candidacy Process toward my goal of ordination.  "OK Pastor Chris, where are you right now?  Here or in the parish?" my supervisor asked with a smile.  (I blogged about this earlier in the month: Always Looking Forward).

Today I presented the Clinical Report that was to have been presented on Monday.  It was about an encounter with a patient’s family in which I over-identified with the patient’s son and became emotionally enmeshed in the family system.  Upon hearing my presentation and analysis of the encounter, the group questioned my authenticity in the encounter.  Many of my peers felt I was distant or phony in the encounter, and that I was enmeshed only in my own transference issues, not in the family’s issues.  The encounter wasn’t a train wreck, but it was, well, imbalanced.  And though it was hard to hear and harder still to admit, they are probably right.  In this encounter I found myself falling into a role that allowed me to remain distant and react to issues that were more present in my past than in the patient’s room.

And then the real learning took place.  I began to reflect on how I relate to others in my personal life – my wife, my friends, my family – and to admit how emotional patterns formed in childhood continue to shape and influence my relationships today.  When I relate to my wife or my best friend, for example, there is part of me that is responding not only to these people, but also subconsciously to my mom, dad, and the complicated emotional realm that was my childhood existence.

And so, today was a reality check, a reminder that No Chris, you haven’t purged all the demons from your past yet (is a complete purging even possible?), and also a reminder that Chris, you don’t even have all those demons contained (again, is a complete containment even possible?).  My stuff comes out, and today I learned that though I likely will not ever contain it, I need to be aware of it. 

As I prepare to go out on internship, this is a good lesson to review.

About Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. National Guardsman. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.
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One Response to Learning About Self

  1. PS says:

    I’ve heard about these mind bending things in the chaplincy programs. I’ve heard that they can be harsh or helpful in the long run. If you felt in your gut that they were probably right, then they probably were. But remember, those people are not psychologists. And they weren’t present during the encounter.
    And, especially, remember, you are who you are because of both the good and the bad from the past. Yes, that is all part of the pattern from which you were made. And you can make good come from the bad when you are aware of it. And that can give you strength. And you also have good things from the past; don’t ever forget that. I know you didn’t grow your caring personality all on your own.
    Two thoughts: some people come from a home with lots of “good” and are, therefore, pretty naive.
    Never forget that (most) parents do the best that they can with what they have and what they know at the time. They still make mistakes. [Thank God for Grace.] And you will too.

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