Case Study, Empathic Intelligence In Practice

The First Time: Awe

February 18, 2012 – Hampden, CT

I showed up at the workshop with a combination of butterflies in my stomach and a heaviness in my chest. The butterflies were excitement, but the heaviness in my chest was less clear to me.

I had done a little research, so I had a general idea of what to expect: we would be chosen to represent members of a person’s family system. However, this basic description information of the process revealed nothing of what I was about to experience.

A man took the chair next to the facilitator. He described his issue: He had a confusing relationship with his mentor, a man he had great admiration for. Their visits would begin well, but they often found themselves in conflict, and he would leave feeling confused. He wanted to understand what was happening because he was supposed to be writing a book with his mentor, but they weren’t making progress.

The facilitator asked him to set up a representative for himself and his mentor. The man looked around the circle of workshop participants. He chose one man to represent his mentor, another to represent himself. He walked each of them to the center of the circle and placed them facing each other, about six feet apart. The two representatives stood silently in the center of the room, looking down. They both described themselves feeling “wobbly” and unstable.

The facilitator asked the client to set up a second representative for himself and his mentor. He placed the “second mentor” to the right of the first. He chose me as the second representative for himself. I stood across from the “second mentor”.

Having never done this before, I was nervous and uncertain. What was I supposed to do? What if I did it wrong? I don’t remember the facilitators specific instructions. There might not have been any instructions at all. I was simply asked, “what do you notice?”

What I noticed was that I my limbs felt weak. I even felt like I should probably lay down, and the facilitator instructed me to follow my movement. As I lay face down on the ground, I started to feel cold, and then I was shivering. I felt an unusual pressure where my body touched the floor, as if a magnet were pulling me into the ground.

“Who is that?” the facilitator asked. The client looked at me on the floor and said, “I think that’s my sister.”

“My sister died as a child. I was 6 and she was 9. My parents, in their grief, just packed up the house and we moved to another city. We almost never spoke of her again.”

As he said these things, I felt myself lighten. The warmth came back to my body, and I looked up at him with a sense of playfulness and happiness that “I” was being spoken of.

Later, the facilitator asked me to stand. As I stood, I made eye contact with the man who had been chosen as “the second mentor.” As I looked at him, I was overcome with emotion – so much love! I have described it since then as sunlight –  not the sunlight we often see coming through the window, with little flecks of dust floating in it. I felt it as clear, radiant love. The facilitator said, “This is your father.”

The facilitator invited us to follow our movements, and “my father” and I embraced. A powerful, joyous embrace, it felt like a true homecoming.

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