As a child of holocaust survivors, I knew practically from the womb that human beings possessed the amazing power of resilience. All of my relatives had lost parents, siblings, and/or children, and endured the unendurable in ghettos and concentration camps. Yet, after liberation they ultimately made their way to, variously, the United States, Palestine or Australia, where they married, had families and created livelihoods literally from sheer will.

Growing up in New York City, I bore witness to another ‘power’ possessed by humans – alas, a power that sabotages rather than sustains. To survive in the Center of the Universe, many people feel compelled to posture and project facades of strength and uber-confidence. Only in midlife, after I left a career in magazine publishing to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a psychotherapist did I become privy to what lay underneath the designer clothes and wide, open smiles.

In my office, outwardly successful careerists felt safe enough to emotionally disrobe and show me their self-doubt, fear, rage, jealousy, hopelessness and an inner void sometimes deep as the Grand Canyon. Only by finally feeling ‘understood’ and accepted for who they were rather than who they pretended to be did they finally find peace and come to love even their broken parts.

We cannot heal the world until we are whole ourselves.

A big part of my practice these days is helping others who have suffered trauma move from having their broken parts define them and how they view the world. That leads to rigidity, fear and shutting down. Only by sharing our innermost vulnerabilities and realizing others share them can we open to a place of hope, connection and ultimately, transformation.

Sherry Amatenstein