I Understand Your Pain

“I Understand Your Pain!”

A few years ago we heard President Clinton claim that he understood someone’s pain. The great communicator President had a way with words, and with facial empathy. There is no doubt that he cared. But and to be fair, how many times have any of us stated the, “I understand?” phrase as we have first attempted to help an individual in pain?

The fact is, as none of us see the same rainbow, none of us have felt the same pain, even if the circumstance was the same as that of another. And it does not help the other when we make such a claim. In fact. it may be an automatic turn off to the aggrieved, and two, the one in pain may at that moment not hear us anyway.

Job’s friends from centuries ago, began to help the great man in his utter despair by saying nothing. As Job sat in the ashes scraping himself, amidst his deep pain and grief, they were quiet for several days. Then they began to pour out the reasons behind his pain. In remaining quiet they were a great source of help. In speaking out, they poured gas on the fire of his torment.
No, we do not understand someone’s pain. Neither should we say that. And perhaps the best form of empathy is the face of compassion, the service of love, and the quiet that allows for reflection. “I have been there,” “I understand,” is well-meaning, but it is an unhelpful and inconvenient/inappropriate comment. I am sorry, I am here, a hug, a quiet presence, a servant attitude, is a great beginning. That will not be forgotten.

“I don’t understand, but I am here!”

www.bryanhagerman.ca 902 471 7919. “The Therapist At Large.” I do Skype. And I care!

“Ubuntu, I Am Because Of You.”

Ubuntu “I am, because of you”

Ubuntu, is a Southern African “Nguni Bantu” term meaning roughly “ I am because of you.” With this comes the illustrative story of an adult elephant that was born with front legs shorter than the back legs. Trying to get up a steep incline one day was impossible, in her attempt to follow her herd. Two male elephants noticed, and got behind her, slowly pushed her forward up the hill, not unlike a railway engine. Another problem was presented when she wanted to go down the other side. In danger of toppling over the two elephants got in front of her, and with their bodies as a breaking system guided her down.

This wonderfully illustrates “Ubuntu, I am because of you.”
The goal of therapy is to help another who for one reason or another is emotionally handicapped in moving forward. And it does take a community. The issue may be anger, depression, anxiety, fear. No matter, the individual in question, young or old, male or female, has an issue that needs attention. They may not even know what the problem is, but they do know that it affects their relationships with others. They probably go to therapy on the advice of another who cares for them.

The therapist upon listening carefully helps the client discover the why behind the emotional immobility, and the relational problems brought on as a result. Through more listening, trust building, empathy, a partnership develops. The partnership moves to agreed upon goals and objectives, coping strategies, leading towards emotional health.

The “I am because of you” becomes a reality. The you in the narrative is made up of the various people helping the client reach a place of health. They are, the friend or loved one who advised towards counseling, the therapist, the Dr who may have prescribed counseling or medicine, and the individual themselves who took the risk forward, those who encouraged along the way. As humans we exist and learn to thrive best in community.

So, “I am because of you.” Where can you fit in that healing narrative today?

www.bryanhagerman.ca I am, “The Therapist At Large.” 902 471 7919. I do Skype therapy.

Body Language

Body Language

Sigmund Freud famously once said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” By saying that he was asserting that not everything we see, think, or say, in concert to another, is a projection on something else. To coin a common saying today; “it is what it is.”
There is however a science on body language. It is a science that has been studied for years and generally it is quite accurate. Generally. Certainly there is some nuance here. And given the context to a situation we can generally discover what someone is saying by their body language. It may even be something they do not know they are saying. The rolling of the eyes, arms/legs crossed, eyebrows raised, leaning toward someone when you talk, hands placed on the hips with elbows out to the sides, walking beside someone, walking in front of someone, touching the throat when talking. These are all signals that we may give off when in the company of another.

The body talks? Yes it does!:) And it has a lot to say. In fact the words of the human body can speak more authentically and truthfully than, well, the human mouth. It can communicate pleasure, doubt, cynicism, distrust, anger, superiority, uncertainty, fear, derision, compassion.

Therapists go to school on a client when it comes to words said, vs body language. Sometimes they are in conflict. Without words the language of the body is all that is left to be observed. The observation can say a great deal more to the therapist that the mouth does.
But and again one must be careful not to normalize everything a person does with their body. Sometimes, “it is what it is.” But in context, the body can say something profound, even give something seemingly hidden away.
What does your body say? Need a therapist?

I am, “The Therapist At Large.” www.bryanhagerman.ca 902 471 7919. I do Skype.



I was asked by someone recently, something I am often asked and something that I too often ask others. “How are you” It is on one level a relational question, on another a greeting of sorts, and yet potentially an opening for a deeper conversation. I must admit that I decided, rather mischievously, to discover if the individual asking would notice my response. And so I said, “not very well, having a very difficult time.” And they said, “great to hear it, have a wonderful day!”
This question, the one we are possibly most asked, is sometimes answered untruthfully. And yet we ask, again, and again, and again. And we are generally ok with it, because it has become a form of greeting in our society. In truth we don’t ask the question to discover how someone is, or do we?

Then to be asked the following question, and from someone who you are meeting with over coffee/tea; “how are things going on in your life?” shows a concern. And if they will not let you off with a trite untruthful response, you really have a friend. They care.
How many people do we know who dare and care, to peer into our heart and connect with how we really are? And who are ready with the answer? I remember a Seinfeld show many years ago where Kramer told the advisor of a mayoral candidate that an integral part of the campaign should be name tags work by new Yorkers, so people could greet each other by name. And build relationships. The candidate lost.
There are three points to this; 1) are we listening to the one we have asked “how are you?”, not just with the response but with the body language and facial expression. 2) Are we ready to answer with an answer that is truth for us at the moment? 3) Are we ready to get further involved when the answer is; “I’m having a very difficult day.”

Good mental health, is good emotional health. MQ = EQ. Even Einstein would agree.:)

“SO, HOW ARE YOU.” www.bryanhagerman.ca I do Skype. 902 471 7919.



Mango (my Nova Scotia Duck Toller) and I meet a lot of various dogs of all shapes and sizes on our daily walks. It is often the tail that gives everything away. Two wagging tails as two dogs meet, check each other out, smell the other for the first time, is a very positive first visual. Safety!  And I must admit there is always a bit of initial apprehension when another dog appears between both owners, especially for me if the other dog is a Mastiff, Great Dane, or a Dogue de Bordeaux. At this point rapport of some type is essential. Or, be to ready to run, and quickly.

Rapport is  “a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well.” A great synonym for rapport is compatibility. This is the key ingredient for a successful client/ therapist relationship. Without it trust is undermined at the outset. There is generally just no way a client who is enduring a mental health issue, no matter how bad it is, is going to spend more than one or two sessions with a trained therapist if there is no rapport, and vice versa.

Rapport between two people in any context is never certain. However, when it comes to the healing process it is crucial. In part it is personal chemistry, in part the ability of the therapist to overlook everything and enter into the emotional world of the client. Not everyone can develop rapport with another and it should not be viewed as a failure if this is the case.

The compatibility between therapist and client allows for a free flowing, fluid conversation and professional relationship to develop and grow. The rapport is a trust characteristic. It emotionally emboldens the client to share at a deep, personal, open, transparent, vulnerable, safe level. Emotional health is advantaged. It does not wane between sessions. You just begin where you left off.

Rapport is a non-negotiable phenomenon. It is also a beautiful relational and emotional art form.

Need Therapy?   www.bryanhagerman.ca  I do Skype. 902 471 7919.