“As healers we have to receive the story of our fellow human beings with a compassionate heart, a heart that does not judge or condemn but recognizes how the stranger’s story connects with our own….Our most important question as healers is not, “What to say or to do?” but, “How to develop enough inner space where the story can received?”
– Henri J.M. Nouwen in Reaching Out
For me, it has taken life experience, spiritual growth, professional training and years of practice to develop the inner space to receive another person with compassion. Even now, I talk things over with a professional when a situation reminds me of something upsetting and I am tempted to react, rather than be curious about the other person. At the age of twenty-three, I said that I was “a good listener,” and yet, I didn’t really know much about conveying empathy. Nouwen wrote that we “develop” enough inner space to receive the person’s story. We cannot be preoccupied with our own story or distracted by something else. It takes time to develop the ability to create inner space to welcome the other person into relationship. Healing happens in relationship. It is interpersonal.
Nouwen poses another question, “What to say or to do?” Yet, he says that is not the most important. I would say that it is very nearly as important. Being in relationship is great; now, you must do something in relationship. It takes both to actually relate to a person as a healer. Gushing, “I just want to be a loving presence,” isn’t going to accomplish much, as you gaze kindly into the person’s eyes, mirroring back everything he/she says. It takes an intelligent plan, a strategy, a care model to use as you work with the person in need of healing. How do you assess their need? How do you intervene (i.e. encourage, ask, comment, challenge, etc.)? What outcome do you hope for or expect? This is more than active listening. The healer is guided by more than intuition or eclectic theories. The true healer has a care model by which he/she is guided in the healing encounter.
I use the Spiritual Assessment and Intervention Model (AIM). Which model do you use?