A reluctant pilgrimage
Counseling for Chronic Illness
But first, whom shall we send
In search of this new world; whom shall we find Sufficient?
John Milton – Paradise Lost (1667), book ll
Is it possible to enjoy a life of quality and meaning within the context
of living with a chronic illness?
How can you accept your permanent losses?
Is there any meaning to your suffering?
If your full participation in life is no longer possible, what is still possible?
What lies on the other side of a changed life?
A chronic condition places you on the threshold of an unknown world. Similar to ancient seafarers who abandoned the land of their youth and family, you might feel too as though you have been taken from your world and put adrift on the dark waters. Unlike these mariners, however, your journey began without your consent – a biographical disagreement.
In this counseling workshop you are taken by the hand through this unknown land. This beautiful and gentle workshop, based on the book of the same title, guides you on your personal pilgrimage through the world you now inhabit. In truth, you are an unwanting traveler, but a traveler nonetheless, and your journey here will take you from a place of loss and hopelessness along many profound expereinces, into your hitherto unknown strength and abilities, culminating in the encounter with your Wounded Healer dynamic. This workshop will be instrumental in you coming to peace with your fate.
‘This Strange Land’© counseling focuses less on the medical aspects of living with a chronic condition and a disability. Rather, the deeper emotional and psychological ordeals are recognised and taken by the hand.
By means of session-by-session guidance and coaching, and through carefully-placed therapeutic writing exercises, this is a fully facilitated email workshop. The personal evaluations that complete each Session allow you allocate a different meaning to your past trauma and your current challenges and constraints.
The following list very briefly introduces each Session:
Session 1 Arrival
Having been severed from your world, you feel as if you are in a place where you do not belong; a world entirely alien in just about all aspects. You are becoming a citizen of the Kingdom of the Sick.
Session 2 At the Court of your Illness
This court is the first portal through which you enter this world. Here you are allowed to present your witnesses, such as ‘Anger’, ‘Depression’, ‘Defiance’ and any other witnesses of your choice.
Session 3 The Keeper of the Land
The second portal is guarded by the Keeper, who will prepare you for the world that lies ahead with his words of wisdom and compassion.
Session 4 The Islands of Identity
Your sense of who you are is irrevocably connected with your ability to express who you are. But when that ability is severely limited, what remains of your identity? In this, you will see that every limitation brings its equivalent depth of experience.
Session 5 The Mountains of Meaning
How can there still be a meaningful life, when so much of what constituted meaning and purpose has been taken away? Or is it possible that your very specific and unique life purpose is hidden within the illness?
Session 6 The Savannah of Suffering
How is suffering different from pain? Can there be meaning in suffering, or must it be avoided at all costs? Here it is proposed that suffering is maybe, at its very core, a creative force, like love and light.
Session 7 The Soul’s Waiting Room
Every journey has a turning point. At that turning point, things momentarily come to a standstill. In that pause a transformation takes place. If you allow for that still place, you will be guided into new light.
Session 8 The Trees of Tertium non Datur
The opposites of your present situation which appears to have no solution on the one hand and the pull from your future on the other hand, create a tension. In this tension, The Third is not Given – Tertium non Datur. Out of the descent experience an entirely new reality emerges that did not exist before.
Session 9 The Expanse of Expression
How can it be that what seems to only restrain you, carries within it the very expression of who you are? Every artist needs a medium to give shape to his inspiration. But that very same medium will restrict him. Without it, however, expression would be impossible altogether. Could your ailing body or your vulnerable mind be the medium that belongs to you, the artist?
Session 10 The Waters of the Wounded Healer
This Strange Land functions along very different lines of dynamic forces. And through it all, the being that imbues its energy is the archetype of the Wounded Healer. The Wounded Healer archetype represents a profound and deeply transforming hidden dynamic within human existence in general and within each of us in particular.
If you identify yourself with your wound, you will become it and it will destroy you. But if you choose to accept that you are not your wound, but that you have it, and with it allow yourself to consciously experience and go through your wound to receive its blessing, it will recreate you and you will emerge on the other side of it.
A selection of short passages from the journey:
“This then, summarizes your journey through this Strange Land – the ordinary is lost so that the extraordinary can emerge.”
“Before this is over, you will learn that love is not a feeling in the first place, but a force that is accessible at any time.”
“Plato called man’s body the tomb of the soul. Therefore, he says, when we awaken the life of the soul, we cause something divine to rise out of the grave of our body.”
“In this Strange Land, your shadow is not here to bring darkness but to allow you to find your light behind it.”
“It is the place reserved for only those who have it within them to bear the highest task a human being can possibly bear: to create meaning and purpose and light when they appear to be missing most.”
“Or did your sorrow, in some mysterious manner, refine and strengthen everything that is best in you? Did it not shape in your soul the things that really matter?”
“In the vast universe that surrounds us, there are nebulas and enormous areas without clear form. These are the realms that exist between being and non-being. And it is in these nebulas that stars are born. They are like cosmic incubators, shining with brilliant light. They have no substance of their own. Likewise, it is within your seemingly inner formless experiences where your stars are born.”
“Shadows are caused by the light behind them. And so, the capacity for suffering intensely reflects also the capacity to love intensely. The door within you that opens into the abyss of your suffering is also the door that opens unto the summit of your love.”
“Let go of your sorrows. Do not lament the passing of what was transient all along. Travel this Strange Land. This is now your special world. Because you have been found sufficient.”
(from ‘This Strange Land’ © Arjan Bogaers 2019)
In this Strange Land, what you want and what you can are two entirely different realities, separated by a vast space. Paradoxically, it is in that space where you can develop your highest values and your greatest strength.
This deeply moving journey will leave a lasting impression and help you find new hope and purpose when you most need it.