When I was thirteen, my parents separated. My mother raised all nine of us children in her custody. I remember my concern: if something bad happened to my Mother, who would be in charge and take care of all the younger children? I went to my uncle and asked him. His response still resonates in me:
“Yael,” he said, “when there are enough people that need you, when you have a significant role in their life, your role is keeping you alive for them.”
I grew up believing I was alive because other people needed me, because I played a significant role in their lives. And in truth, my choice to become a therapist was a choice to be at service for others.
But, does the choice to open, to touch and be touched, to share our heart and our time with others have to come at the expense of our lives?
Throughout history, we see significant leaders like Aristotle and Jesus who influenced others deeply and die at a young age (before reaching their forties). It seems as if they compress deeds into their short lives that would take hundreds of years for someone else to perform.
In 2016, we experienced a long list of lost greats—artists, athletes, musicians, writers, adventurers, personalities and proponents for humanity—people who inspired us, captured our attention, left their mark on thousands or more including John Glenn, Nancy Reagan, Elie Wiesel, Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali, Prince, George Michael, David Bowie, Gene Wilder, Harper Lee and Gwen Ifill. These people created a change in themselves and in other people’s lives through their voices, their words and their hearts. Attachments were formed and then they were gone.
It’s hard to let someone who touched so many people in his life, go. But we have seen that leadership comes with a price. At times, a heavy toll is exacted on the leader’s personal life, his personal wishes and sometimes his actual life. Yet, at the same time, these leaders were savers (and often times considered saviors) as well. And we can see these young leaders who left our world gave of themselves and their hearts until their last days on earth.
At times, we, as therapists, enter a similar position. It doesn’t happen necessarily with a conscious choice. The path is opening and is creating you. People come into your life without your awareness. Others are waiting for inspiration in their life and hoping to get it from you. Without noticing, you begin to internalize your mistake and you realize that if you were thinking that your life belongs to you and is personal, you were wrong. Because at the end of your clinical day, all those people and hearts that you had met, all those people that read your words and felt met by them, they are accompanying you. They do not disappear when the clinic door is shut, or when the talk you gave is over. When they are going home, you are accompanying them in their heart and their thoughts resonate in your existence constantly.
The choice to open our heart to the world, to the mass of people, to be an integral part in their life and their development, is also a choice that may exact a cost on our life. I wish us to choose to give to others out of loving my mission here rather than from choices that distance me from my heart.
Yael Shahar is biodynamic and relational body psychotherapy. She had intensive training in the UK and is a full member of the EABP. Her current focus is on writing clinical papers and co-writing a book with Asaf Rolef Ben-Shahar, entitled, ‘Sharing a Body’, about dissociation from a body psychotherapy approach. It will be published next year with Karnac. Yael believes that part of the therapeutic process is to offer a safe place where we can find our voice, the credo of our individual and personal commitment to act accordingly. She offers the space between us as a non-judgmental place of investigation and search for the truth that everyone holds in their heart.
“I feel committed to the profession, and I find that hope and faith motivate me in my work.”
For more information please visit her website at: