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Look Who is Coming to Dinner!

Dear Reader,

Welcome to Lentz Letters! It is the time of year when many of us get together with family and friends to celebrate the holidays. Guests come in all shapes and sizes. Before some guests come to your home you may need to batten down the hatches! Put away the breakables! Little Jimmy is coming. Dust off that statue of President Lincoln holding the Valentine heart, Aunt Martha, who will be here for Easter dinner, will expect to see it in a prominent location in the house. Hide the liquor, Uncle Buzz confirmed he is planning on helping us understand what a “real celebration looks like”. Consider how this poem gives us a different perspective about guests if we were to consider a look within ourselves.

This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.— Jalaluddin Rumi

Rumi’s poem, the Guest House, dates back to the 13th century. Yet, its lessons are timeless. Consider how relevant it may be to you at this point in your life. It is often hard to make sense when a trauma has occurred in our lives. Rumi uses the metaphor of each human being as a guest house right from the first line. Trauma prompts a part of us to either fight, freeze, or run. A guest house after experiencing multiple traumas may have many guests or parts holding a variety of emotions, behaviors, and reactions, as a result of, holding the traumatic experiences. Perhaps a part of yourself needs to find ways to guard against or shut down from painful thoughts, images, sensations from the past. They are like those people in our lives that arrive at our doors and quickly we regret putting the welcome sign at the front door. Possibly these are the unwelcome guests that blame and shame and have led you to a path of self -destruction. Consider if the knock at the door of your guest house was from the most vulnerable part inside of yourself. This can be thought of as the one guest that lives in silence in his or her misery. Not knowing how to reach out and left aching for a different conclusion. The author invites the reader to not dismiss or avoid any of the guests that are passing through your mind after a trauma but mindfully meet them with courage, warmth, and respect. We have learned that these guests do not go away when we try to avoid or ignore them. Often these attempts at ignoring are met with greater attention grabbers. Think about the bitter, hostile part that has held the shame of past trauma. Easy to take this part at its word, “Just leave me alone”. Through the years you and this part have had an agreement.” You do you and I will do me”. The only problem is that this part’s attempts to distract you from thinking about the trauma result in cutting, putting suicidal thoughts in your head or other ways of self-sabotage. This part is taking his/her role very seriously. Protector is his/her middle name. Always on duty with never a day off. This part busy morning, noon and night working hard to keep away the emotional pain in the only way they know. It is no wonder that this part is bitter, filled with despair, and feeling very alone and isolated. Everyone needs protection. Everyone needs a protector part. Therapy can help the protector to learn new and more helpful ways that benefit all parts of your personality. Rumi suggests that we can learn from all parts when we spend time with them. When we stop avoiding these parts of ourselves and begin to dialog with them with curiosity and without judgment their presence may not be so unwelcome after all.

Each one of these guests has a story of survival to tell. Ways in which they have protected you as the host from unbearable emotional pain. They will always be an important part of you. Learning how to learn what each of the parts within yourself needs is the first step to healing and recovery from trauma.

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