Thursday, February 13, 2014

Parallel universes

Therapists know that some individuals come to counseling as their balm during a storm, and vanish once the crisis moment has abated at some level.  This could happen after one hour’s meeting or four.  A man attended his first appointment for help against desperate anxiety and depression, alcoholism and relationship failure, then didn’t return.  A couple months later he reappeared, golden-faced and easygoing as could be, under court’s order to have “drug counseling”: He got a DUI.  The deep issues had evaporated – weren’t even mentioned – by the interventions of a new marriage and a psychiatric drug.  More recently a young woman showed up several months after presenting, in three sessions, a turbid character of dysthymia, abandonment, pseudo-maturity, stillborn rage, and relationship yo-yoing and sabotage.  In this case I was pleased to see her again because of her endearing problem: She had shoplifted.

What I liked was that this long-toiling, prematurely stolid twenty-something who had once parented herself then carried her husband and captained their ship, had given in to an urge to finally have something in her hand, that didn’t have to be mixed with thought and responsibility to earn it, something for free, a gift from the world.  She surely deserved this in all ways but the legal one.  The judge even seemed to understand that her act was poignant not callous, because he fully emasculated the charge and made her consequence that I could see her again.

This is one of those areas where two realities live together as parallel universes: the child-in-the-adult needing the free gifts of life: love, attention, food, a bicycle, a necklace, sports, overnight camp, a pet.  (Another dimensional parallel would be social versus real justice, where for example someone is jailed for rape, that you feel deserves death.)  This is not the world of healthy adults – the several who are probably out there – but of the rest of us, who traveled through their youth with critical things missed, arriving at adulthood less with “unfinished business” than with empty baggage.  Conceiving their lives this way leaves the therapist with a correspondingly scant bag of resources: We can’t really give them the gifts they need, as their baggage needs to be filled by the past.

So I saw her one-time shoplifting (a beauty product) as a crime of passion, not the best solution, but maybe the only one.  The non-gifted child can't be deeply healed by any school of therapy.  My own approach probably contains a kind of magical thinking, where I hope that my addressing the immanent child, even seeing her inside the big person, can make her alive and restored in both parallel universes, past and present, at the same time.

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Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.