Most people who seek psychotherapy expect at least a certain amount of change to take place, or at least relief. But I think that sometimes clients don’t expect enough. The Christian framework through and beyond Easter is a helpful framework for the process of true transformation for all people. Spiritual writer, Ron Rolheiser has helped me see this and I have applied it to the process of life-change that I want for myself and for my clients.
Passion and Death: the loss of life, or a type of life
The death of Jesus is reflected in our lives through crisis and loss and is often what brings people in for therapy. An affair has been discovered, a job has been lost, depression has become unbearable, a child was born disabled, or the life one expected has not panned out. Whatever it is, it is the life-shattering crisis. People in this state often cannot imagine surviving or are fighting the reality of the loss.
Resurrection: the reception of new life
Jesus’ resurrection can be reflected by individuals often getting used to the new reality or even embracing the new life. Things slowly normalizes and the individual experiences a kind of wonder at himself or herself for surviving. And rightly so! I’m always amazed at the resiliency of the human spirit. What at one time seemed unlivable becomes the new life—the new normal, so to speak.
BUT FAR TOO MANY PEOPLE STOP HERE. For the deepest transformation, more can happen…
Ascension: the refusal to cling, as ascending beyond the old life
This is when the individual is in the new life and is able to resist the inextricable pull back to the habits, patterns, and reactions that were a part of the old life. This is our human mirroring of the resurrected Jesus leaving Earth and ascending to Heaven. When ascension does not take place, folks find themselves in new circumstances doing the exact same things that they did before. The payoff is not always immediate. There can be a type of desolation when the old patterns are refused that leaves one feeling empty and lost. The temptation to give up can feel nearly unbearable. But….
Pentecost: the reception of a new spirit for the new life
…If one persists through Ascension, then Pentecost eventually comes. Pentecost was when the Holy Spirit came to the early believers in a distinctly new experience. For us, it is in the space of absence and refusing the old ways, that something equally mysterious happens. In the void, there is a unique openness and receptivity. This is when the spirit for something truly different comes. And it looks different for each person, from a prayerful “aha” to a radical vision. At this point, people can really say that they would never go back to the old life the way it once was. They are changed, refined, and transformed.
Does this resonate with you? Or have you stalled your own process of growth at the point of resurrection? I look forward to hearing your stories.
Shattered Lantern is Ron Rolheiser’s book in which he shares the outline above.