I started going to therapy after realizing that thing my cousin did to me as a child was sexual abuse and the repercussions were resounding in my life a decade later. I don’t know how the brain works or why memories resurfaced during a summer abroad trip in England, but they did, so I began my third year of college and first session of therapy in the fall of 2012.
I felt uncomfortable being listened to with such intensity. Shari – that’s my therapist – listened as I told her I didn’t have issues with shame. She listened as I told her I wasn’t angry about being abused. She listened as I explained it simply *wasn’t* in my personality to get mad. “I’m just a happy person,” I insisted. She watched my weight fluctuate up and down as I swore I didn’t struggle with disordered eating. She listened as I profusely apologized for crying in her office.
She listened and, over time, I changed. I admitted to being angry.
In a book she recommended, the author connected embarrassment to shame, and I ran into our next appointment, saying, “Shari, I feel embarrassed all the time! I didn’t know that was a form of shame!” She nodded and smiled.
I realized I was coping with food. I saw patterns of codependency. I found little strings in my heart tying self-deprecation and porn addiction and depression to sexual abuse. I was shocked to find out everyone doesn’t feel like they’re in trouble all the time. I identified some “roles” I played in my family since I was a little girl, and realized why, despite being an adult, I often felt like an eight-year old kid.
There were certainly times Shari advised me, offering direction and boundaries and guidance. But most of the time? She listened intently. Nodding. Affirming. Asking questions. Listening more.
There is some sort of mysterious, transformational power in being heard.
I think about God’s words to Moses in the middle of the desert: “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings” (Exodus 3:7). God listened to the cries of his people and freed them from slavery through Moses. I wonder if the Hebrew people felt heard while they were in slavery, being treated like trash and dying at the hands of their oppressors? I wonder what their joy was like after hearing Moses’ message: God does hear your cry and he is going to free you!
Shari’s role in my life is a lot like Moses’ role in the lives of the Hebrew people. By listening intently for an hour each week, she shows me the power of a God who hears. Because of the difficult, healing work she’s done in her own life, I am able to cross sea after parted sea. She holds space for me, a space that would otherwise feel too daunting.
Therapy isn’t a repair center, where broken pieces are removed and replaced. It is a healing center where wounds are revealed, voices are heard and lies are exposed. Six years ago I thought Shari was similar to a repairwoman, taking out broken parts and giving me new ones and interpreting parts of the owner’s manual I didn’t understand.
I’m thankful I was wrong. I’m thankful she listened.
Bio: Savannah Locke is an office manager, writer, and worshipper. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, Todd, and puppy, Bentley.