In the last session of aggression management group therapy, one of the Vietnam veterans, the one with a particularly steely reserve, the one who criticized everything I had to say in the first weeks of treatment, has started suddenly to cry. He is telling me, as his voice breaks apart like shattered glass against the walls of his throat, how grateful he is to me for teaching him to meditate, how profound breathing has been to him in his life, how peaceful it feels to let go, and yet, how much suffering continues to unfold in his life, in his relationships that seem locked in perpetual toxic habitual struggle. Another member leans forward, the star pupil of the group, staring at me with large, hopeful eyes. He asks me what I would do, tells me that, being the expert, I must have some wisdom to share on the matter.
I look behind me, where my cofacilitator has written in large letters with a fading dry erase marker on the board: “Assertive Communication. I feel ______, when you ______. Can we _______?” I turn back to meet his expectant gaze, running my options, then sigh and smile calmly. “Do you think that I do not struggle with these things just the same as you?”