Okay, Learning, Memories, Denial, Forgiveness, and Pain Meet for Support Group. An Allegory

Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness    (c)2013 Nancy Virden






Forgiveness, Okay, Memories, Denial, and Learning gather in a circle, avoiding eye contact. One more member of the depression support group is unwanted, yet always present. Pain.

The first five want Pain to go away. Negative members like him also used to come – Low self-image, Self-punishment, and Defeat. They are gone, yet their companion stayed behind. 

The therapist begins his questioning. “How is everyone today?”

Each studies the floor. After awhile, Okay starts talking. Daringly, he looks the therapist in the eye. “I am strong. I have skills to cope with living, and can manage my depression. I will survive and successfully face whatever may come my way.”

“Great!” says the therapist. Everyone but Pain nods.

Learning speaks next. “Information you are giving us challenges old thinking patterns that used to bring me comfort. Now I know I have the power to choose my thoughts, and to practice self-care.”

“That’s hopeful!” says the therapist. Everyone but Pain nods.

After a brief pause, Memories hesitantly answers. “The past comes to mind and I feel scared. Regret and shame take over my mood. However, there are good remembrances too, and I can be grateful for those.”

“Yes, you can!” says the therapist. Everyone but Pain nods.

Denial jumps in the conversation. “I don’t have any coping or thinking pattern issues, and as for the past, what is, is. I am fine. It doesn’t affect who I am. Except for when I get angry for no reason, there’s no problem.”

“You recognize the anger. That’s progress!” says the therapist. Everyone but Pain nods.

The last to speak is Forgiveness. Her voice is quiet, and group members strain to hear. “Revenge is no longer my mission. Forgetting harm done to me is not actually possible. However, by accepting my humanness,  I can forgive whatever roles I may have played in the suffering of others or myself.  Amazingly then,  resentments are let go more easily. That means I finally feel peace.”

“Good for you!” says the therapist. Everyone but Pain nods.

“But why is he still here?” Forgiveness points to Pain.  “I thought he would leave when I came around.”

Okay, Learning, Memories, and Denial  look puzzled. 

“Pain is not absent only because we learn healthy coping skills,” the therapist says. “Self-awareness,  focusing on positives, and even denying him, will not chase Pain away.”

Pain nods.

“However, expecting him to be everywhere or inviting him in is not our goal,” the therapist continues.

Startled, the five group members look at Pain closely. At first, each one’s face displays measured fear.

Okay observes how powerless Pain is. “He is small, and has no muscles.”

Learning shares an epiphany. “Pain is limited, his arms only go so far.”

Memories notices Pain does not speak. “He is not the instigator!” she says.

Even Denial acknowledges Pain’s presence. “You look smaller in person,” he says.  

Suddenly the five stand tall and face each other. “Together we can keep ever-present Pain from ruining our lives. We will support each other!” they shout in chorus.

“The power of Group!” says the therapist as he nods. 


NOTE: I am not a trained or licensed mental health professional. I am not a doctor. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

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