Thursday, June 5, 2014

Liars, and Tricksters, and Errs – OH MY!

How Gossip Blurs the Lines Between Restoring and Rejecting

To get to the point allow me set the stage. Someone we know well, a friend, a loved one, etc. has a fall, makes a bad and publically embarrassing decision, or has a piece of their long forgotten past come back to haunt them. Their world is turned upside down, whether by their poor choices or by other’s choices that we may or may not know about. For a while they stumble, they isolate, and they may even continue on this painful path not fully understanding the weight of the consequences.

But then, whether immediately or further down the road, they stop. They turn around and start heading back to the familiar path they have wandered off from. However, they are now met with obstacle after obstacle and may wonder if they can ever really get back or may lose hope after a while and wonder, “Is even worth it?”

The Obstacles
This piece is not about the fallen – even though the two paragraphs above describe any and all of us at different times during our lives. This piece is about the obstacles that are created by the Gossipers that stand back, watching and waiting to pounce on the next opportunity regardless of whether it is true or not. And just like how the two paragraphs above describe all of us at different times in life, sadly, so too the prior sentence.
It is one thing to wait on a person to see if they will have a change of heart and to respond to that change based on their decisions made during the wait. It is quite another thing to stand back in continual judgment of a person, broken hearted for their choices, barring any path that would allow them to return.

The Gossip chooses rejection over restoration. Why? I have a sneaking suspicion that it is easier to point the finger at the obvious offender in the room than to look in the mirror and own their own shadow. (Projection) Another possibility is that the particular target of the Gossip reminds them of someone from their own past who hurt them in a similar way, and with whom that wound has never healed. (Transference) One might even rationalize and justify Gossip because “if it’s true its not Gossip”! Have you ever heard that line before? Have you ever used that line before? What the Gossip fails to understand is that with their own projection and transference of pain it is only themselves they truly have in their crosshairs. The Gossip will either face their pain and get better or take it out on the subject of their gossip, continuing to become bitter.

And so – the human hobbling back to community, seeking restoration, if they are strong enough will withstand these blows and press through – stronger. Wiser. But for the weary soul who cannot stand it any longer and finding no one to offer shelter, sometimes they do an about-face and head back to the rough path they came from. This then allows the Gossip to announce, loud and proud, “See! You see! I told you they weren’t sincere! I told you they were lying! It’s a good thing I was here to warn everyone. Thank G-d I was here!”

Dear Gossip (AKA: any of the 7 billion people on the planet): You speak with cunning only to lie to yourself. You declare the other person a deceiver only to wear the mask of the trickster. You focus on their failure and miss the error of your way.

“Oh, Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!” – C.S. Lewis

Written by Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT ~ June 5, 2014

Sunday, April 6, 2014

What Happens in Vagueness Stays in Vagueness

We tend to be people with fences, walls, and barriers. Many of us have built entire fortresses around our hearts, keeping safe what we truly feel and think deep inside. When it comes to being real with even those closest to us we often move into vague speech. If people really want to know us they must swim a mote of humor, scale a wall of sarcasms, only then to find the gate of our hearts bolted shut with distrust. Don’t be too clear and nobody gets hurt. Practice the art of vagueness and live to distrust another day.

But being vague has its downsides. Who can really know us if we live a life of vagueness? Who can really love us when we have a flare for obscurity?
Living in vagueness we become a people who distance ourselves from reality, left to search for relief within the virtual. Drink it away. Smoke it away. Eat it away. The bottle, the food, and the one nightstand can never truly know or love us.

Vagueness rewards us with loneliness, isolation, and a life lived with little love or truly being known. Sound familiar? Ask yourself what is at risk if I become a little more open with people who have, thus far, proven themselves to be safe and trustworthy? If it all goes south then you are no worse for the wear, left with the same loneliness, isolation that you walked in with.

But what else is possible? What if those who have proven themselves to be safe and trustworthy remain safe and trustworthy? What if they listen to you, and seek to know you better? What if they witness your moments of joy as well as your times of pain and sorrow? What might happen to your loneliness and isolation if you let others in to love you right where you are?

What happens in vagueness stays in vagueness. The power is yours. The choice has always been up to you.

Posted by Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT April 6, 2014

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Are You Cracked Crockery Or Pottery With A Purpose?

Discovering The Gold In Your Wounds

Than ancient Japanese art of kintsukuroi (Japanese for “golden repair”) consists of repairing broken pottery with a lacquer resin, finished with powdered gold. While some might find the trash the appropriate final resting place for these broken pieces, others see the treasure in the cracked crockery.

Just like kintsukuroi, we can look beyond seeing trash and instead behold the beautiful in the becoming. As Robert Bly said, “Where a man’s wound is, that is where his genius will be.” Simply put, rather than avoiding the pain of life, we will find the gold, or greater purpose, if we are willing to examine our wounds.

This journey into the deep does not have to be done alone. Touching the wound is never an easy journey so I invite you to consider a few things to help you along the way.

1. Make sure you have the support of a safe community around you; several safe friends and family members that you can turn to and lean on.

2. Consider working with a therapist to delve deeper with a trained professional.

3. Make a list of non-negotiable needs in your life, things that you must have as support from friends and family. (Affirmation, acceptance, love, respect, time, vulnerability, safety, etc.) Make your safe community aware of your needs.

4. Daily prayer and meditation.

These are just several ideas to get you started but certainly add to this list to make sure you have the support you need. We cannot do this alone.

There is another story of a character trying to find her way home. Lost in another world, she was told to follow a golden road and at the end she would find her way home. While the road was golden it traveled through some dangerous and treacherous lands. However, even she wasn’t alone on her journey. Along the way she found companions who supported her while also finding her wisdom, her heart, and her courage. It was only in reaching the end of the golden path that she finally understood that she always had the power to go home inside of her but she never would have believed this about herself had she not gone on the journey which helped her to face her fears and hurts.

What wounds have you kept locked up deep inside? Consider for yourself if it is time to look at the painful cards life has dealt you and find your genius; the gold that mends our broken pieces.


Posted by Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT – November 24, 2013

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Troublesome Transference

When your Present is Possessed by your Past

Once upon a time, years ago, I crossed paths with a certain man whom I had never met before. I had no knowledge of him whatsoever. Not even having been introduced yet, I found myself becoming very angry at the mere sight of the man. I had no idea why but something inside of me just wanted to yell at him.

Stepping back a moment and discussing the situation with a trusted friend I suddenly realized that this man, that had undeservingly and unknowingly sparked my wrath, reminded me of another man whom, to say the least, had acted very dishonestly toward me. The dishonest man in my past and this complete stranger before me in the present looked so similar that they could've been brothers.


Transference is when we take a person from our past and overlay them on a person in our present - whether we know the person in our present or not. Another way to explain it is its much like having a movie projector filled with memories and people from your past. People in your present are like white movie screens that you sometimes will turn and point the projector onto them and watch the painful, wound ridden movies from your past across the these human screens. In the personal example I gave, I saw a man who reminded me of another man and turned my movie projector on and pointed it directly at him.

We are all guilty of transference. The trick is learning to become more self-aware so that you can catch yourself when you might be transferring. In my case I was able to set aside the man from the past and in doing so found the man before me to be very kind, honest, and have since become friends. How many potential friends have I possibly lost before ever getting to know them because I was transferring someone else onto them instead of seeing the gift of a person that stood before me?

If we can learn to notice when we are transferring then there is an opportunity to work through, grieve and close the door on past hurts and wounds. So don't be discouraged if you find yourself transferring. Be encouraged by the fact that this is an opportunity to close the door on the past and open a window to the future.

Posted by Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT – July 9, 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Start Small But Dream Big!

What dream, goal, life have you been putting off? Ever use any of these very popular procrastinating excuses: "I'll get to it tomorrow". Or "I don't have what it takes". Or "I'm not smart enough, strong enough, good enough..." Enough already!

We don't have tomorrow. We have today. Only today. I saw this car recently while I was out running errands. What an amazing picture of getting into the mindset of who, what, or where a person wants to be in life. This is no 1969 Dodge Charger with the doors welded shut. But to the person who is driving it it might as well be. I imagine the owner of this car has slid across the hood more than once. They aren't waiting. They are living. They are starting with what they have and believing and living beyond it - and in doing so they are straightening the curves and flattening the hills.

What have you been sitting on that you need to begin? What do you need to begin doing today? Saying today? Believing today? Living today? Where there is no vision the people perish.

Posted by Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT – May 29, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fools Gold

Fools Rush In Where Angels Fear To Tread

This piece is for all the underdogs out there who were told that they didn’t have what it takes, were scorned by those around them, or just never felt as though they had much to offer. Whether you were always made to look the fool and/or whether you bought into the story that you are a fool, take heart. To be a fool is to be very powerful indeed!

The Fool has its roots as a powerful archetype throughout history amongst different cultures, and is often connected to the Divine. In Europe the fool appears as the Green man. To the Western Plain Native Americans he comes in the form of the Coyote, or the Trickster. Within different dynasties around the world he may have presented himself as the Court Jester – appearing as an entertainer, yet close enough to have the ear of the King.

The fool has often been (incognito) the one who has the power to heal the wounds of the ruler, and therefore the nation. In the classic tale, The Fisher King, Parsifal looks to be nothing more than a poor peasant whom the courtiers laugh at when he announces that he would like to become a knight. It is only moments later when this same crowd is hushed by the realization that, unbeknownst to him, this boy holds the power to heal the wound of the King. (Parsifal literally means “innocent fool”)

In the epic series, The Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien, it is the Halflings that steal past the enemy hordes unnoticed to destroy the great evil of their time. In Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles it is always children that defeat and overcome the great evils of that world, or as Lewis refers to them – Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve.

In our world history there is one particular Son of Adam that the Enemy did not see coming. In the person of Jesus, the archetype of the Divine Fool is played out to perfection. “He was oppressed and afflicted yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7

The symbol of the sheep is very important here, known as a very foolish animal, weak, and defenseless – much like Parsifal the “innocent fool”. However, his enemies knew how powerful this Jesus of Nazareth was. The people followed him, and they had witnessed his miracles. They also considered him a fool – a bastard son, and just a carpenter. And yet this was the turning point of history. The deathblow was given and the full nature of his power became known. Through the wounds delivered to him who was considered a fool, the world was delivered from her wounds.

Perhaps instead of listening to what others may have said about you, or taking on that others have labeled you weak and foolish, you might see these as high praise and that they have unwittingly paid you a great compliment. It is in your ignorant bliss that your true strength may be hidden. Always remember: “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:27

Posted by Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT – March 25, 2013

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Thaddeus Heffner - Feeling Our Emotions

Most of the time, says Thaddeus Heffner, people are stuck in their heads. Whether it is the paralysis of analysis or stinkin-thinkin, they just don’t know how to get out of their heads and step into their hearts, or rather, emotions and body sensations.

Thaddeus Heffner: The place to begin
I always start out a session with an "emotions check-in." I ask the simple, and yet profound, question “What emotions are you checking in with today?”.  When starting with a client the first few times I am always met with the answer, “I’m good” or “I’m fine.”  Good and fine are ideas. Good and fine are not emotions.

The four core emotions are: joy, anger, sadness, and fear.  All other emotions or feelings tend to fall under one of these emotional categories.  For instance, anxiety more than likely would fall under fear and hurt could fall under sadness and/or anger. Happiness would take its place in line behind joy. You get the point.

Thaddeus Heffner: Becoming aware of emotions
With these emotions often come feelings in our bodies, or physiological sensations.  We might feel fear in our stomach as butterflies or a sick feeling.  Many people tend to tighten their fists when angry or cry when sad.  Sadness might even make their shoulders collapse inward with heaviness.  All of these are our body’s way of holding and experience emotion.  There is much to learn when our brains stop doing al the talking and let our emotions and body in on the conversation.

We start with a thought, or a memory of what happened – be it a near or distant memory. If we next would just allow ourselves to check in with our body to see what we are emoting and sensing in our physical self, we open ourselves up to any number of possibilities: a grieving process, greater insight beyond what our thinking mind would have given us, the ability to forgive someone or make amends, and so much more.

Thaddeus Heffner: Moving past the head and into the heart
If you are someone who often is stuck in your head I invite you to consider what it would be like to open up to your emotions and body?  This is no easy task, at first, if you are not used to this practice.  It is much like weight lifting. You begin with a lower weight and as you become stronger you add weight to the bar.  Emotions and feeling our physiological sensations are like muscles – the more you work them the better you become at connecting with them until finally it just becomes a part of how you are.


Thaddeus Heffner is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Brentwood, Tennessee.  He is a member in good standing with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Association of Christian Counselors, and the Nashville Area Association of Christian Counselors.  Visit him at http://thaddeusheffner.com/



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