Emotion focused therapy

2009
Park, Ka Young

“What are you feeling now?”  This was the question I used most often when counselling patients using Emotion Focused Therapy.  As a Family Medicine resident, I signed up for a course that taught various counselling techniques, and I happened to fall into the EFT group dealing with patients going through the pains of loss, divorce, loneliness and childhood tragedies.  My objective was to help them bring out their emotions thus free them from whatever traumatic experiences were ailing them.  But after having learned about the art of EFT, I began to realize something: I was not the healer.  I was also being healed by my own efforts to heal others.  As cliché as it sounds, patients can be your teachers. 

Old memories are still too fresh.  The pain of losing my mother to cancer, imperceptibly mingled with the scent of the crisp cold air of her final October days, linger with me.  They are beautiful but too sad to remember, which is why I tried to bury them deep into subconsciousness.  But invariably, they manage to grow out like stubborn weeds on a dry wintry night, haunting me in my dreams.  I dream the same dream over and over again.  She disappears, I look all over for her and I finally find her, only to lose her again.  I thought I was strong because I could force myself to smile.  Now I wonder if I ever really was strong.  Maybe I simply did not have the courage to face myself.  Maybe I did not let my feelings burst into a healthy scream, and as a consequence, I lost the kind of smile I used to smile - innocent, undoubting, and vivacious - the kind that knew no pain.  Why had it become so hard to see Me, still unmistakably alive somewhere within myself?

I told my patients that it was okay to mourn, to grieve, to cry, to fall and to be honest with themselves.  But all those times I could not help but ask myself: Did I mourn properly?  Was I honest with myself?  Am I a hypocrite?

Yes, there were times I cried for hours and still my tears seemed to know no end.  I cried with a force I never knew I had.  But I remember being reprimanded by one of my mother’s friends, a stout traditional Korean lady who told me to stop right there and then.  “What a public embarrassment!  She said,  “A doctor crying in public like that.”  Embarrassed I was, I wiped off the tears and used all my power to suppress the welled up feelings inside.  I felt something explode in my heart.  I think I killed my emotions.

Why had I done it?  Why did I try so hard to stop mourning?  Who was this lady and how dare she tell me what to do?  After having counselled patients going through similar losses, I realized that doctors are just as vulnerable to human tragedies and emotions, and that they may not always do the healing but it is their right to be in need of such healing.  It is okay for doctors to mourn, to grieve, to cry, to fall and to be honest with themselves, even in public.

Am I functioning to the best of my abilities?  I used to be a source of inspiration and joy to those around me.  Am I still that person, or am I someone who has become in need of such comfort?  Where can I go to shed the rest of my tears?  So I ask myself: What are you feeling now?

Theme: Death and Dying | Décès et le mourir
Theme: Family | Famille
Theme: Physicians | Médecins

Stories in Family Medicine | Récits en médecine familiale [Internet] Mississauga ON: College of Family Physicians of Canada. 2008 --. 

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