In the early hours, awake in my bed, I had a memory of a time in my business when I saw many teenaged and young 20-something girls, in person, in my home in Harvard MA. An old rambling farmhouse on a couple acres. It was my true heaven for 11 years, until it became a kind of hell of loss and impending loss and we had to leave. But this piece is not about that.
Before I went all high-tech Jetsons internet-based coaching, I actually saw real people in real time in my home. For 20 plus years actually. I loved those times. I am all about home to begin with, and so having these beauties in a space that I had carefully and lovingly curated felt like bringing them into a certain kind of sanctuary, a womb space to birth their true course. They came in for their sessions through my front door, into the big mudroom, squealing and loving up the five dogs that then lived with us, adding so much love and buoyancy and connection, providing a welcome of pure love and joy that i certainly could not have provided on my own.
My ‘real’ children, Luke and Nicky would be carefully hidden away, knowing the boundaries of when clients were in the house to remain out of sight and relatively quiet. That part was awkward but the tradeoff was being able to be home with my kids through their time at home with me, no daycare, no outside providers or artificial home-substitutes. We were all together even when I was working. Such a blessing for me, and I believe for them.
Not having daughters, I took particular pleasure in these girls that came to sit with me, to become more of who they were meant to be. And what a collection they were. I saw my work with them, just the fact of their having found me, to be evidence of Sacred Contracts.
I secretly called these girls “The Little Witches”.
All of them highly intuitive, highly empathic and sensitive. They felt things deeply, often too deeply, and most of the adults in their world pathologized this level of sensitivity and feeling. And yet I knew who they were, knew what they were struggling with. The others thought it was about an eating disorder, bulimia or binge-eating disorder. They thought it was about depression or ‘moodiness’ or low self esteem. And yes some of these pieces were present. But that’s not what was happening.
This was about a level of attunement and depth of feeling..a kind of having no ‘skin’ emotionally.. what is often referred to now as HSP, highly sensitive person (I have it too). where you feel too much of your own stuff, and pretty much everyone else’s too. All of my clients, adult and otherwise are built like this. It contributes in my opinion to eating disorders, addictive habits, overwhelm, perfectionism, difficulty navigating relationships and boundaries, people pleasing, and struggles with the kind of self care that matters.
So by some miracle, The Little Witches (usually their mothers) found me. And in each initial meeting with these girls, I could see the perfection of our meeting. Our destiny. It sounds romantic. In a way it was. It was the beginning of a love affair- the kind where you are seen and heard clearly, maybe for the first time. The kind of love where you can say anything, tell any secret, and know you are safe and seen through loving eyes. Where you are taught to love yourself in the whole of you, the whole beautiful mess of your strengths and flaws and specific way of expressing in the world.
It has been part of my true calling. Knowing that because of their youth, that our work and that I could change the entire trajectory of their life. Knowing that I knew how… I had enough love, I had eyes of clarity, I had superb training underneath me (Harvard teaching hospital in psych.. leading psych hospital in the country.. ahem…), and that my intuition was reliable and I could trust what I was seeing. And help them from that mix of my own attunement. I just loved those girls, and the privilege of having an impact at a moment in time when I could make a difference. That their mothers should find me, in my country house, and that I could take all of the judgment and pathology out of the picture, while reframing what was going on for these girls in a way that called attention to their gifts and the wisdom that they possessed, the truth that they saw, in spite of their youth.
Not everyone will celebrate the Little Witches. Most people can’t stand the truth, can’t tolerate those who have laser sharp vision and knowing, who see the raw and the real and who are also willing to speak it. Women have been called witches for these kinds of ‘crimes’ since the dawn of time… their power and capacity to see beyond lies and artifice a threat to so many. And they will often dumb themselves down to attempt to be less of a threat. They will develop an eating disorder, or gain weight, they will undermine their presence to be taken less seriously. To not have to risk offending with all. that. power. Jesus.
Watching some of the truly unaware parents hurt my heart. The projections onto these girls of their own fears, flaws, conflicts. It was ugly business sometimes. Seeing at some point early in the therapy that actually the family was hugely invested in keeping these girls ‘sick’. That was surely the hardest part of the work for me. Having to find some way into the psyche of the family so that the girl could be integrated and accepted from a place of her true strengths. And yet the family was all too willing to sacrifice and scapegoat these kids.
I look back on these girls with great love and fondness, and sometimes amusement. There was the blonde bombshell who showed up for an initial evaluation dressed to perfectly emulate Hugh Hefner’s favorite Bunny at the time.. all pink striped athletic socks and short shorts and big blonde hair and the face of an angel. She confided to me in our first meeting that she wanted to be a Playboy Bunny. And although old-school training as a traditional psychotherapist dictated that we were to keep our private wants for our clients the hell out of the work… it was not to be. When she told me of her life goal I remember thinking “Not when I”m done with you”… And she did not become a Playboy Bunny. I can’t tell you the specifics but she is in another kind of famous playground, the most wholesome ‘happiest place on earth’ living as a princess.
Another one of these girls who I dearly loved and treated for many years, came with so many piercings that at moments I had trouble looking at her. And yet those soulful eyes, that heart that hurt, the talents that longed to be seen, the constant yearning for love. Because of social media and Facebook, we are still in touch and she is a mother of two beautiful babies now. A really good mother. The big bull ring in her nose is long gone. She expresses herself in other ways now. She is guided by her wise knowing and her Intuitive Body.
Then there was the raven-haired beauty.. truly looking like Snow White at my doorstep. Delivered by her father after a referral from one of my best friends who did guidance at a local school. For years she came. For years I talked with the father. They became like family, I loved them like family. One day in the midst of our work together i saw a woman enraged, screaming at my husband in our driveway outside. The woman was the girls’ mother who because of the severity of my client’s eating disorder, had decided she could no longer handle visiting her mother (who did not have primary custody). The mother was raving to my husband that I had stolen the daughter, and it was a painful scene. As a mother I of course bled for her. As the champion of the daughter, I would protect her in whatever ways i was able. She stopped the binges and purges. She stopped defining herself by her appearance. She found love for herself, work that meant something to her, and found the boy who would see her heart.
Just writing this brings back such a fond rush of heart. Of the blessing of the work I’ve been able to do over the years. Of another space and time, another home, my young family under my roof. the five dogs, my husband. All changed now. All changed into something new and still wonderful But those days of the Little Witches, and how we found each other, and changed each others’ lives and hearts… those stay with me forever and a day.
Can’t remember how I found you. Must be my age. But it was in the house in the suburbs You were just that. Someone to share darkest secrets
You even took me to O A
The ride to Harvard was long but prepared me to say what I was feeling
And not needing to be perfect. Cause I am enough
I love reading your stufff. I was never good at doing the writing down. But I do the thinking
I love your resilience.
I am now trying to figure out this last third or quarter of my life Actually enjoying how to be alone sometimes. Taking care of me. First
Most of the time
A work in progress
Lisa Claudia Briggs says
Helaine, I loved you then and I loved you now. I do remember how you found me.. Jeff at the h.s. remember? Anyways, love hearing from you and knowing that you are still evolving, and that you bring beautiful living things to so many, and taught me how to love plants without the fear of killing them. A huge gift to me, who now has plants everywhere, and occasionally without meaning to, kills one. Much love, Lisa