Shared Wisdom: Use of the Self in Pastoral Care and Counseling

Shared Wisdom: Use of the Self in Pastoral Care and Counseling

Shared Wisdom: Use of the Self in Pastoral Care and Counseling

Shared Wisdom: Use of the Self in Pastoral Care and Counseling

Excerpt

Awareness is growing in the fields of pastoral care and counseling that our own subjectivity as pastors, chaplains, and psychotherapists is central to our ability to be present and respond empathically to those who come to us for care and support. Classical training in recognizing our “own stuff” prepared us to examine the unfinished business of our own lives, so that our unresolved issues would not distort or interfere with the healing potential of our pastoral relationships. Most of us, however, have known at least subliminally that more is going on in the pastoral relationship and in our own subjective experience of those who come to us for help than just a polarity of “their stuff” and “my stuff.” The pastoral relationship involves intersubjectivity, a sharing of understandings and meanings that arises in the “potential space” of exploration between us.

There is a shared wisdom that grows and is held between helper and helpee in the pastoral relationship, and this shared wisdom exists in both conscious and unconscious dimensions of “I,” “Thou,” and “We.” As we engage deeply and compassionately with the other, we find that we draw wisdom about that individual’s perspective and experience from the shared exploration of meanings that arise between us and are cocreated uniquely in this pastoral relationship. How do we come to discern this shared wisdom?

The purpose of this book is to show that by delving into our own subjective experience of the counseling relationship, our “countertransference,” we will come to a deeper, more empathic appreciation of the other and be more open to the other’s own thoughts, feelings, insights, and hopes for growth and healing. The book will lead the reader through a method for pastoral assessment and theological reflection that makes use of the pastoral caregiver’s own self as a primary tool for discernment and praxis. This method will involve several dimensions: prayerful contemplation; an examination of what is happening in one’s own thoughts, feelings, impulses, and experiences; and theological reflection, leading to a deeper assessment of the needs of the other and ultimately a pastoral praxis that is based . . .

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