In a training on trauma I am attending, we did an exercise today that we coined ‘The kind companion’. It is an exercise in which you imagine a person or animal or symbol that makes you feel safe and calm. It could be someone in your childhood who was special to you, a grandparent, a friend, an animal you loved, a teddy bear, a stuffed tiger, anything.
The exercise reminded me of the ‘Patronus’ charm in Harry Potter, when the dark dementors attack and suck all the happiness around you, the only thing you can do as a wizard is the ‘Patronus’. The Patronus is usually an animal in white light produced by the wand that chases away the dementors. Each wizard or witch has his/her own patronus and the same one appears everytime.
We sat with a partner and began the exercise of calling this person/animal, to our side and spend some time with them, their presence relaxing us and taking us to a safe place. At first, I imagined that my ‘kind companion’ would be an elephant. I wondered what I would name her, etc. But then when it came to doing the exercise, it turned out I thought of my paternal grandmother. She left us when I was 16 and not fully able to comprehend the extent of loss I felt. But today as I tried to imagine her, I realised that she was my ‘safe and sound’ during my childhood. Lying in her lap watching TV, or reading a book while she watched TV, or sleeping next to her at night, were some memories that came back to me. As I sat there trying to imagine her, I found a place of peace and calm that has been hard as hell to find these past few months. In her imagined presence, I felt the comfort I felt as a child, I could smell her, soap and cream, her soft skin, her rough hands. She had this allergy that made the skin of her palms all rough. She hated it, she would scratch it all day. She would kiss us noisily with her lips sealed tight, so she didn’t get her spit on us. People often tell me I have her arms. All these memories came flooding back and filled me with warmth.
It was a beautiful realisation, the fact that the people we lose are never really gone, that we can reach out to them and ask them to stay with us, help us through a difficult time. I was surprised that I could remember in so much detail moments that feel like another lifetime.
It is an extremely effective exercise in moments of stress and difficulty, but if we pick someone who has left us we must pay attention that we have dealt with the loss to be able to feel the good feelings, without the sadness. Try it and tell me how you felt? If you like?