June came to therapy because she felt confused, unfocused and unproductive. She was usually a dynamic, active woman with many interests and commitments, but now she didn't have the energy or the desire to get involved with the things that usually gave her pleasure. She met all the diagnostic criteria for depression.
June said her depression seemed to have started about two years before, when she had had an abortion. This surprised her because she had been very clear at the time that she didn't want to have children and that the abortion was a wise decision. She had raised her two brothers and sister after her mother died of cancer when June was eleven. Her father had retreated into his grief and then buried himself in his work. June was left alone to be the mom in her family.
We spent the next session working on techniques to combat the symptoms of her depression. It was still unclear why June had become depressed at all after the abortion.
June came to her next session and told me a dream she had had. She was sitting in field by a lake, and she was nursing a baby! She was surprised even during her dream that she was enjoying this so much. The wind picked up and a huge wave came off the lake and engulfed her and the baby. When she got to the surface of the water, the baby was gone. June had woken up from this dream feeling more depressed than she had before.
As I questioned her about the different parts of the dream it became clear that the baby in the dream wasn't the baby she had aborted, it was herself. She had lost an essential part of herself. She began to cry; she said she had lost her sense of herself as warm, loving, and nurturing. She had felt cold ever since the abortion. Being warm and nurturing was the center around which her self-concept was built. She was no longer able to believe in herself as loving--she wasn't able to connect with the part of herself that felt most like her.
As we worked together, other parts of June's spiritual injury came to light. The feeling of not being nurturing enough was painfully connected to not having been able to keep her mother alive, and then feeling she was not a good enough mother to her younger siblings. June knew intellectually, and in a very adult way, that she couldn't have saved her mother from dying. She began to understand that she had done the best she could with her sister and brothers.
I explained to June my understanding of spiritual injury. You can't be cut off from what is most essential to you. You don't stop being a good person, a warm and loving person, when you have an abortion, or when your mother dies, or when any other painful things happen in your life. The feeling that you are cut off from whatever is most essential to you is a delusion.