- How did I personally (and do I in general) keep from being pulled into the client’s “drama”?
- How did I keep myself grounded and “safe”?
Both of these are excellent questions and it’s not the first time that someone has asked them of me so I’m going to take a moment to answer them here.
I see a lot of clients. It’s part of the job of being a shaman or a spiritworker. People come to me for divination, to get their spiritual problems sorted, and they come to me in the midst of spiritual crisis. This is par for the course. I’m also a clergy person, so I do quite a bit of pastoral counseling and yes sometimes the line between priest and shaman cross in this. Yes I have the appropriate training. So I’m going to answer this question as honestly as possible, drawing on the response I gave to my student about client X:
“On a purely emotional level, why would I be pulled in? This wasn’t a friend or colleague after all, it was a client (although an unexpected one). My job was to sort him out and give a [spiritual] prescription or refer him (and I did a bit of both). I chose to get as involved as I did because the Deity involved with that client is most beloved in my House and I wanted to see the situation righted for the sake of Deity. I knew going in that it was unlikely X would follow the prescription but my job was done the moment it was given.
I rarely become emotionally involved with my clients. I often find myself having to triage the worst of them, the ones that persistently refuse to take responsibility for themselves. I do what any good psychotherapist would do: I remind myself that it’s a job and I debrief with a colleague to make sure I’m not risking transference. But I have no feeling whatsoever toward “X.” (or generally any other client). This is part of the job.”
What’s more, I do this job for the Gods, not the people. My concern as both a priest and shaman is restoring and maintaining balance between an individual and the Gods, ancestors, and land and/or between a community and the same. It’s never personal. If I allowed myself to become emotionally entangled in my clients’ drama I wouldn’t be doing my job. I wouldn’t be able to do my job. What I feel is irrelevant anyway in terms of the Work. It has nothing to do with the job at hand and/or whether I shall complete the work at hand. I will. Period.
As to the second question, I had very good early training in the basics of psychic/spiritual self defense and hygiene: centering, grounding, shielding, warding, cleansing, etc.—all the things that will help a person hold proper and healthy boundaries both spiritually and emotionally. I highly recommend a book, written by one of my former students, called “Spiritual Protection” by Sophie Reicher. In it, she gives pretty much the year long course of training that I gave her (with my ok) and that is the condensation of everything I was taught in my early twenties. I also maintain a strong practice of ancestor work and they are the best protection one can have. Those two things together are almost unbreachable.
But mostly, I shield energetically. I keep my ancestors in the loop and called upon them, I make the proper engagements with my Gods, and I do the basic exercises as a matter of daily course. Then when something like an imbalanced or overly dramatic client comes up, I just stay the course of my regular routine and all is well. I have a routine of grounding, centering, shielding, offering (to Gods and ancestors) and cleansings that I do before and after seeing any client. I do my best never to deviate from that routine. It’s saved my skin on more than one occasion because now it’s habit and that means when I’m wiped out, I’ll go through the requisite motions automatically, which is very, very good. I don’t miss any dangers.
Essentially it all comes down to discipline: mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical (in terms of developing a routine of grounding, cleansing, etc.). Then all one has to do is stay the course. These questions were really about boundaries: how do I maintain them or perhaps even should I maintain them, what kind should I maintain? The answer to that, in this and I suspect every other field is “yes, yes, and whatever type makes you the most efficient.” Involving oneself in client drama never, ever does that latter.