Sigurd Hoppe was the scheduled speaker at Semi-Programmed Meeting on March 2, 2014

Forty plus years I have listened to the stories of kids and teens, and of women and men. Each had suffered losses; each feared what was to come, and each despaired his/her powerlessness to change the course of life. Many of them wished that I, their therapist, might “fix” their problem. Of course I could not, and would not! So I listened to them and acknowledged what I fathomed to be their pain, their suffering. Often they would walk away feeling heard and understood; sometimes they’d discover their own new choices to heal wounds and were glad for my support. Sometimes they’d invite family members, or partners to join in sessions with intent to grow that relationship. What’s the crux of it?

When people experience dark emotions, they need to meander and live through them, rather than avoid them altogether. All of us experience losses throughout our lives, and, hopefully grieve those losses to resolution in a supportive environment. Some of us though will get caught up in lone misery regarding a loss, thus avoiding a chance to heal from it. How then do we work through those dark emotions so that we learn from them and enrich our spirit, rather than descend into despair? The answer is not simple.

Healing dark feelings takes time. Sufferers need to embrace and surrender to them so to understand their grief fully. Addictive escapements only lead the sufferer to long term misery devoid of healing. The crucial point here is: we must not suppress and escape emotional pain, rather surrender to its lessons. The outcome will enliven our spirit, and deepen our wisdom.

How did I learn about dark emotions? Certainly not in graduate school! Yes I have read valuable books, e.g. Miriam Greenspan’s “Healing through the dark emotions.” I’ve personally experienced these through the gift of living 81 years, some in dark, some in joyful contexts. Having been bred into the dark emotional environment of Hitler’s Germany, and losing two brothers within a week at age four I grew up fearful and numb.

I can proudly tell you of the crucial turning point in my life: it came near the end of my graduation from college/Ohio Wesleyan U, when I met the late Friend, Glenn Bartoo. He was then the college secretary of the American Friends Service Committee, Columbus, Ohio. He heard my dark emotions bubbling out of me and guided me to spend a year in a workcamp in Mexico. That experience turned my life around: from miseration of having grown up as a little Hitler youth and under the stern ministration of a rage-o-holic parent into a lifelong Friend. I am ever thankful to Glenn Bartoo and my Quaker community for the life I evolved from then on. Amein !

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