Authentic Participation, by Susan Beyler

Even as a young person, I had the desire to participate in a relationship with what-ever-it-was that I am part of, but is bigger than me.   I touched this experience in the church I was raised in, but I reached adulthood with few life skills to have it be useful. 

The best I could do to find it was by taking care of others.  This skill came easy to me – both sides of my family tree have deep roots in addiction and as children, we learned to take care of others.  

The strange thing is that I would feel full and empty at the same time.  The balance would shift as I went through my days and it was a rollercoaster ride of feeling needed, feeling alone. 

Just like anyone who has reached out for help, I finally did it when the pain of my life was worse than how afraid I was that something needed to change.

In 1994, one of the things that I did was join a processing group being led by two people I respected and trusted.  I’d never done anything like this before; but had a strong sense of nothing to lose.

The first night we ‘checked in’ – a process I had never observed or participated in. 

People took turns reporting how they were doing; how they were feeling.

It came around to me and the question was asked “how are you feeling?” 

First, I realized that I had never been asked that by someone who wasn’t invested in my answer. 

Second, I realized I had no idea how to answer.

I closed my eyes and went inward, looking for an answer.  Going inward was easy; it was how to ride the rollercoaster.  But the sensation was brand new – no sensation.  No answer.  No idea.  No words.  No me.

Very gently I was asked, “Mad, sad, glad or afraid?”

It was a lifeline and something I had to use over and over and over until I had some vocabulary for the experience of me.

Later, I found this journal entry from 1992:

Like my scarf drawer,
Pull a thread of my feelings
And it all comes
Gushing bubbling
Erupting tumbling
Shouting crying
Crunching spreading


Integrative Therapist, The Estuary