THE BONDS THAT HOLD US: ON BLOOD AND LOVE.

by Velleda C. Ceccoli Ph.D. on January 30, 2012

This blog is collaboration. While I am writing it, it is based on something that was shared with me regarding a meaningful personal experience in psychotherapy. It was spawned from a posting on authenticity (http://drceccoli.com/2011/07/on-being-authentic/) in which I described the potential curative power of relationships that rely on the sharing of felt experience. This got my collaborator thinking about her experiences in treatment, and in particular, how her first treatment with a male therapist had changed her life because of his willingness to be real and to make himself known in this way. She has given me permission to share part of her story. So here it is.

Her fathers’ love provided a powerful resource that helped her to survive the trauma and pain in her early life, despite his untimely death during her adolescence. As an adult, she began treatment with a male analyst, who through his authenticity, echoed and rekindled the memory of protection and trust that she had experienced with her father. This made it possible for her to address and work on many of the difficulties in her life. Her therapist’s recognition and real attunement made her feel safe and protected. After reading my blog on authenticity, and as a Potterhead (my affectionate name for those of us that are fans of the Harry Potter books), she talked to me about this experience. She told me that she felt that her analyst had sealed the “bond of love” that her father had begun, through an authentic relationship, which provided a human context in which it was possible to revisit dark places because she felt cared for, recognized, understood and protected. She further told me that she had come to understand this through her reading of Harry Potter.

So now some explanations regarding the bond of love, which in the Potter series, is a bond that is exchanged between Lily (Harry’s mom) and Harry, when she protects him from the dark wizard (Voldermort) by standing between Harry and the powerful death spell cast by Voldermort. The spell hits Lily and kills her, and leaves a thunderbolt shaped scar on Harry’s forehead. Here is how it is described in the Harry Potter Lexicon:

The bond of blood is formed when a person sacrifices himself or herself for a family member, out of love. The sacrifice creates a lingering protection in the blood of the person who was saved. It is not activated, however, until a charm is actually cast, and it is not sealed and functioning until another member of the family accepts the saved person as his or her own.

In Harry Potter, the charm is cast when the wise wizard (Dumbledore) sends Harry to live with his aunt, and gets her to agree to care for him until he can attend the school of magic. By accepting this, it is his aunt who seals the charm, and as a result Harry is protected. The nature of this magic is that it requires two people – it requires a relationship to be activated.

It is called the bond of blood, because although Harry’s aunt has no affection for him at all, she is his family, his blood. The love part comes from Harry’s mother. The one interacts with the other. Now what does this have to do with therapy? say you. Everything. Please read on.

All of us have our family blood, both literally and figuratively. It carries not only our DNA, we could say that it also contains our history at the cellular level. Our bloodline carries on through generations, as do many of the behaviors and emotions that are learned and experienced in our early family relationships. Consciously and unconsciously. Such early interactions with our caretakers literally shape our experience of our self and our self in relationship. We now know that early relationships and interactions shape the way our brains develop and function, and that this in turn affects the way that we experience and conduct our relationships. Love, and our (early) experience of it may in fact ‘protect’ us by helping us form meaningful connections and relationships to others. By paving the way to relationality.

In psychotherapy we bring our history, and our blood bonds with us, and we share them with another through our relationship with them. If that other is attuned to the emotional communication that we bring with us, and if that other is prepared to relate to us in an authentic way, that echoes our emotional history because it provides a human context in which to articulate our experience, then magic happens: the experience of feeling known and recognized by someone who can help us repair parts of our experience because they help us to re-experience it in a new way. The therapeutic relationship has the potential to activate a protective “bond of love” through its authenticity. I share this story because it captures this most important factor of the therapeutic action. And it also captures what bonds us together – our humanity.

 

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