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How to Make a Miracle: 101

April 16, 2010

Spring is the time of renewal and miracles.  Both Passover and Easter, the major religious holidays of the season, involve the celebration of the miracle. But in my clinical practice, miracles are made. And everyone has access to making his or her own miracle. First the ingredients you’ll need, then a story about one individual’s miracle.

Lesson 101: Miracles start with suffering. Sooner or later, everyone has this ingredient on hand. I’ve never been a big fan of suffering, but I am a believer that you might as well grow from life’s pain. Rather than minimize it, or pretend it was in the past–learn from suffering, allow it to break you open so that you can redeem it.  Some suffering results from just dumb luck–an accident, an illness, being born in the wrong country at the wrong historical moment. But the suffering we all have access to is found in relationships. Parent-child, spouse, friend. We need ’em and yet we struggle to feel known, understood and loved in them. Hard enough to love ourselves, extra challenging to love another who has hurt us. Relationships are the joy of life, but  at times (to paraphrase Sartre), can be the hell of the 3 a.m. argument or sleepless night of worry.

Lesson 102: Complicate the suffering. Don’t reduce the ingredients to blame–that makes a bad souffle. Have the courage to  step into the shoes of the very other who is causing you pain. This isn’t blind compassion or white-washing, but an expansive view of the human limits and the unique family experiences that shape people.  Add a dash of making yourself vulnerable enough to talk about your pain with that other.  Ask for what you need–what would help you heal. If you don’t get the gift of a loving response, know that it takes at least two for relationships to heal, but you can win your own freedom from pain by saying your side, and giving and asking for a fair hearing.

Lesson 103: Keep trying. Recently in my office, I celebrated a miracle 15 years in the making. A man who had first come in prior to his divorce, had healed every relationship in his life. His divorce became a compassionate friendship that later led to remarriage. Disappointments with his kids took him back to his father with whom he had had a difficult relationship in childhood. An estrangement from a sibling led to an understanding of her experience as a kid, which helped them reconnect. Finally, his renewed relationship with his aging father helped reunite the family. Why did this man keep trying? Because from his suffering, he had learned how to make a miracle.

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