“What Do You Hear in These Sounds?”

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I love wrestling with angels. I love the give and take of a good argument. I love finding those places in life where you can let your hair down without a filter. I love nothing better than a relaxed, honest, genuine and kind conversation. Tinged with humor, God’s greatest gift.

And having reached “the age of wisdom”, I no longer suffer fools gladly.😊

I love thinking out loud with others – especially with those called to serve this craziness we call “church.” This is why I love working with seminarians and why I have loved doing “colloquy” with them.

“Colloquy” according to vocabulary.com is the “opposite of a chat”.

“Colloquy” in church parlance is where half a dozen seminarians come together once a month, or so, to wrestle with angels. Each meeting, one at a time, the members of the group take turns presenting “event accounts”. An event account is a one page, single spaced description of anything at all, no matter how large or small, that transpired at your parish. The only criteria is that it be a conundrum that has left the seminarian scratching their head.

And once upon a time a long time ago, my colloquy co-convener provided me with a conundrum of my own.

After our group had had met just twice, this fellow (who is a therapist by trade) asked me, via answering machine, to “process the group’s dynamics.”

Leaving him a message back, I said that I would be happy to. His tone, however, struck me as odd, so I asked him to tell me up front what it was about. Mindful of boundaries, I told him I didn’t I have a lot of time that week, so how about we talk on the phone.

“Just want to talk about how the group is settling in,” he said. “And its so much more fun to process this stuff in person!”

And so, against my better judgment, I sat down with him after work in a conference room. And this is what he told me.

“Joani, do you know that in the group that you make sounds? Do you know that when others are talking you make sounds in different tones? And do you know that these sounds that you make are distracting and that these sounds make you the center of attention? Has anyone ever told you this before?”

I sat there silent as a post. (Making no sounds😊.) “No,” I said. In twenty years of parish ministry, no one had ever told me that. No vestry member, no colleague, no co-worker, no parishioner, no Sunday School teacher, no organist, no administrative assistant, no choir member, no committee chair, not a single person in the pew had ever told me that.

Then he sat back in his chair, stroked his beard and said, “Please, help me to understand what is behind this behavior”.

And then, like a blithering idiot, for fifteen minutes, I tried to explain myself. “I am an extrovert. I am a middle child. I am a translator. I am a peace maker. I think out loud. I am a people person.”

On and on I went until he told me he had gotten what he came for.

In my car on my way home after this bizarre exchange, I said to myself, “What the hell was that?” The therapist (and not my therapist) had done his best to climb inside my head. What was my bipolar brain thinking? And despite it being none of his business, this is what he wanted to know:

“What do you hear in these sounds?”

Quite ironically, “What do you hear in these sounds?” is a fabulous song by Dar Williams. A fabulous song about therapy.

I don’t go to therapy to find out if I’m a freak

I go and find the one and only answer every week

And it’s just me and all the memories to follow

Down any course that fits within a fifty minute hour

And we fathom all the mysteries, explicit and inherent and

When I hit a rut, she says to try the other parent

And she’s so kind, I think she wants to tell me something

But she knows that its much better if I get it for myself

And she says

Oooooooh, aaaaaah, What do you hear in these sounds?

And ooooooh, aaaaaaah,

What do you hear in these sounds?

There is no better place to take one’s bipolar brain than to therapy. Talk, talk, talk is really so much more than it is often chalked up to be. Besides regular chemical adjustments with medication, talk therapy has been clinically proven to help us crazy people keep our heads on straight.

Psychotherapy is not the same thing as psychoanalysis. The latter is what Woody Allen does in all his movies stretched out on a leather couch, the analyst behind him in a wing chair puffing on his pipe.

No, psychotherapy is much more like taking your brain to Jiffy Lube. Besides getting your oil changed regularly there is a 39 point checklist. The categories on the therapist’s chart relate to all things emotional, social, physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and intellectual.

We’re organic creatures. It’s all connected – brain to bone. Getting this all straight a week or two at a time is good medicine. And now after all these many years on the therapist’s couch, my bipolar brain is buzzing quite happily and noisily along on its own.

God is in the noise, I believe. God is in the conversation and the chatter. God is in the listening and the laughter. God is in the earthquake. God is in the storm. God is in all the loud crashing craziness of this wonderful life.

So friends, lean in and listen. “What do you hear in these sounds?”

Pax vobiscum, Joani

Mental Health Spirituality The Episcopal Church

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The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog

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