Recently, as a way to express his gratitude for deep and vulnerable sharing in a group, a friend of mine spoke these words, in the Lakota language — “Mitakuye Oyasin,” — meaning “we are all related,” or similarly understood as “we are one.”
The effect it had on me was visceral and profound. As I had been listening to other people in the group share their stories of daily struggles and pain, joy and gratitude, these words, spoken by my friend in a language foreign to me, shifted my listening from an intellectual pursuit of empathy and understanding to a purely heart-felt bodily experience. What happened? I cried.
I was taken aback by a sudden flood of tears and emotion, and yet able to notice in my body that these were not tears of sadness, but tears that embodied all I experienced in that moment – struggle, pain, joy, gratitude. Obviously, these words barely capture what I felt. Words are inadequate. But my tears expressed what it meant to me to feel totally human, and more importantly, totally complete.
Earlier, I had been feeling vulnerable about sharing a part of myself. I wasn’t sure. Would I be accepted or judged? I had been walking around with this fear and vulnerability for some time. With the words “Mitakuye Oyasin”, “we are one,” I was reminded of the bigger truth I try to embody and express in the therapeutic relationship – that no one is better or worse, more worthy or unworthy, more strange or normal, more outside or inside. We are all one.
It occurs to me that this is why I believe in the therapeutic process. People often enter therapy feeling vulnerable and afraid, as I had. What happens through the therapeutic journey can be this incredible, bodily knowing of “Mitakue Oyasin.” We begin the journey thinking of ourselves as somehow different, possibly broken or wrong, and come to realize the most important truth of all…we are profoundly human, broken and complete at the same time. We are all one.