“I need you to tell me you’re dying”

My first thought was that I didn’t know if I could carry her through it. But instead of sliding into my self doubt spin, I pushed forward and started the role play. Her major fear was being abandoned by people she cared about, and we had originally begun the role play by me telling her I was moving to California. But she stopped in the middle and said it wasn’t working for her, because she just thought she’d go there with me. She said I needed to really abandon her. She said I needed to tell her I was dying.

I’ve been in Workshop Wonderland for the past 2 weeks. It’s amazing to me how transformative one weekend can be. The weekend before New Years, we (me, Pax, and two other amazing women) conducted a workshop called Co-Empowerment, an intense swan dive into personal passions and the fears that hold us back from doing what we want to do. We spend a big chunk of time exploring what those core passions and fears are, then each participant envisions what co (gender neutral pronoun used instead of he or she) would be like beyond co’s fears. We ask, who would you be if this Fear didn’t drive your choices? How would you live your life differently? Each person then does a self-designed role play of a situation that stimulates that specific fear, and they act it out from the perspective of their “empowered persona.” It’s intense and actually dramatically life-changing for some of the people who do it.

This woman’s distress was that she didn’t allow herself to really connect with people because she was afraid of what would happen if the connection disappeared. It was excruciatingly hard for her to open herself to other people; when she did, she felt weak.

“I need to tell you something, and it’s really hard for me to do this because I care about you so much. I… I’ve been going to the doctor for the past few weeks, and… I’m sick. I’m really sick. I have cancer. It’s too far along to operate. And I’m dying.”

I had tears in my eyes as I said the last sentence. She started to speak a few times, then just stared at me. She reached forward and wrapped her arms around me, and started sobbing. I held her, crying too. When she pulled back she said, “let’s stop”, and then sat quietly for about a minute. “How are you?” I asked.

“That was really intense.”

“How do you feel?”

“Different. I didn’t run out of the room. That’s what I wanted to do. But I stayed.”


“Because that’s what it looks like beyond my fears. That’s what my empowered persona would have done. Accepted the feelings. I felt them bubbling up and I wanted to push them down, but instead my empowered persona just keeps going.”

“That’s your message to yourself,” I said. “Keep Going”

and she said the weekend changed her life