Jan. 12, 2022
I think there’s much that we can learn from psychotherapy. Psyche in it’s original Greek means “soul.” We use the idea of soul in order to point us to the conscious thinking expression of soul, referred to as “mind.” Soul or mind is more of a metaphor than a tangible reality. We can’t physically see it, but we can see its effects. We also can appreciate a felt sense of its presence during our meditation practice.Our souls require a different kind of sustenance than our bodies, but I think we should care for them both with love, attention, grace, gentleness, and harmony.
I think that this kind of care from the level of where we are, with what we have, to the best of our ability, is all that life asks of us. For me, that is good enough. A good enough approach to caring for this life that is within us is to do the best that we can, while being open and vulnerable enough to ask for guidance when we reach a state of unknowing. It may not be a perfect life; it may not be good enough for others, but I believe that life asks us to live a life that’s good enough for us.
It was the psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott in his famous book, Playing and Reality, who gave us the phrase “The Good Enough Caretaker.” His ideas on soulful and realistic caretaking rocked the therapeutic world who saw Freud as the guardian of the psyche. It is also in that same spirt, that if we are open and allowing, we can challenge internal belief systems that have told us if our lives do not turn out as we expected, we have somehow failed.
If we allow our minds to reflect on the experience of providing care for someone, we can all acknowledge it takes a certain skill. A good caretaker is one who learns the art of delicate attachment; if a caretaker is too attached, then the person being cared for is smothered. If a caretaker is too distant, the person being cared for feels abandoned. For Winnicott, life does not ask us to be perfect- life simply asks us to be good enough, to live well enough, to do what is within our power to do. A good enough caretaker understands his/her/their own limitations; so instead of running to the rescue of the thing it loves, it delegates like a wise parent. In order to have healthy boundaries, a wise parent provides a transitional object to a child such as a blanket, a toy, or a stuffed animal, so that in the event the child needs to be reminded that it is loved, the toy serves as a proxy for the parent. So too does life cares for us in this way. The tools that shape and mold our awareness are the transitional objects that life provides us when we need a direct contact with the source of our existence. When those tools break down or no longer give us what we need, we can trust that a greater wisdom is around the corner, listening and watching from within, waiting to reveal itself as us.
I think that what life asks of us is to care for this life that is within as best we can. For those parts that we do not understand we can surrender to the greater mystery of life. For those parts that we need help, we can ask for the help that we need. And after all of that work, if things still do not measure up to our expectations, we can rest knowing we did the best we could. And that my friends is good enough.