For the Therapist Across the Couch - Meri Tumanyan

I can only imagine how difficult it is to hear people share latent fears and anxieties day in and night out, travel with them through the depths of trauma, and guide them as they face hidden monsters in the trenches of their mind.

And there you are, by your client’s side, helping her dodge bullets when painful memories threaten to graze her scalp. I urge you to lift your head from the trenches and brush off the dirt on your helmet.

I urge you to travel further into her psyche’s underworld and feel the spit and sweat of a drunk father whose cigarette burns his own fingers as he passes out in his rage. Or see the protective mother hiding her toddler behind her stained apron after scraping a meal in the kitchen.

Look more closely at that scared little girl who grew tall but couldn’t really grow strong, and is here on your couch, trying to figure out why she’s terrified of the dark and of loud noises. Why she can’t stand the smell of beer, or cigarettes, or veal. Why she’s scared of men and marriage, still wondering why her mother didn’t yell back at her father, or why he didn’t go out drinking one night and magically disappear.

But then the guilt sets in and the Ten Commandments her grandmother made her memorize flash in the mirror of her mind, and she wonders if we are genetically programmed to love the people who bring us into this world, even if they fail to care for us the way they should.

So, before you gently break the news that her failed relationships with men may be due to codependency issues, try to understand that the only forms of attachment she shared with her primary caregivers sprung from fear and resentment.

Help her understand that her need to find love, which she’s been seeking for decades, is actually her mind secretly looking for a safe shoulder to lean on, a quiet place where ashtrays don’t fly and mothers don’t cry.

Meri Tumanyan is a first generation immigrant from Armenia who obtained a B.A. in Comparative Literary Studies from Occidental College and an M.A. in Creative Writing from California State University Northridge. She is a wife, a mother of two girls, a full-time high school English teacher, and an Adjunct English Instructor at Pierce College. She is the author of recently self-published children’s books entitled Mommy, the Dreamweaver and Daddy’s Waltz, both dedicated to her children. However, her true passion is poetry. Her collection of poems cover such topics as love, loss, discord, trauma, emotional suffocation, loneliness, and the search for unconditional love and beauty as healing forces. Poetry becomes an exploration of the truth, a need to reconcile the disappointments experienced with acceptance and endurance, patiently hoping for a stronger, more evolved, a more enlightened self to emerge. Language becomes a vehicle for the speaker to express unfathomable pain without sacrificing the dignity of a broken self, steadfastly seeking to attain wholeness and integrity through words. Language gives form to chaos, unravels the hidden beauty in oneself and in others, which makes life not only bearable, but also beautiful.

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