Standing in Your Tension

Excerpted from Swallowed by a Snake

Tom Golden LCSW

You are walking by the ocean. As you walk you notice the cliff behind you, the trees and rocks jutting out from the side of the cliff. The trees are twisted and gnarled as if they were attempting to escape the ground in which they grow. That, in fact, is what they are doing, for they have seen Sisiutl. Sisiutl is the monster from the sea, a hideous-looking creature with two heads. When anyone sees Sisiutl there is only one response: total fear. The urge to run is uncontrollable, it is blinding, the only thing one can think of is to run as fast and far as possible, and not to look back. This is the way it is when one sees Sisiutl.

Suddenly, out in the ocean, you see Sisiutl. Your entire body reacts automatically and wants to run, but you stand firm. You know if you run you will never stop running, you will be like the twisted trees on the cliff attempting to leave the ground in which you stand, so you stand firm. Sisiutl comes in closer, you can see his two heads waving above the surface of the ocean. Now he is close enough for you to smell his foul stench and you utter prayers of protection as he moves in. With one more wave he will be upon you. He lets out a screeching sound, both heads approaching you from either side. It's too late to run; fear washes over you. Just as the heads are inches away from your own head, they stop. Both of Sisiutl's heads stare into the other's eyes. He stops and stares.

Sisiutl searches far and wide for anyone who will stand firm so he can glimpse his other side. When his other side is seen, truth is given to the one who stands firm in that tension. Whenever you stand firm like this, you will be visited by the vision people, and they will show you truth.

This story gives us a glimpse of the essence of healing from grief. Grief can be like seeing Sisiutl, wanting to run as fast and as far as possible. In order to heal we must find a way to stand in our own tension. A summary of this process might be as follows. A man finds his strength, and then uses that strength (usually an action) to connect with his grief and pain. He then chooses to stand in that pain and grief, standing his ground for periods at a time. The following section will describe many ideas about standing in our tension and how to do that. It will examine the things that hinder us from making a good connection with our grief and some of the prerequisites of making that connection with Sisiutl.

Excerpted from Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing pages 45-46.
Tom Golden LCSW

Tom Golden is a professional speaker, author, and psychotherapist whose area of specialization is healing from loss and trauma. You can find out more about Ton's private practice here. Tom gives workshops across the country and in Canada on many aspects of this topic. His workshops are known to be both entertaining and informative. Contact Tom at the addresses below (email or snail mail) for inquiries about speaking or training for your group. You can also order his book Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing on this site or through


Tom Golden LCSW
 P.O. Box 83658
Gaithersburg, Maryland 20883
301 670-1027