Sunday, July 5, 2015

The invisible

This is just a fragment of an idea.  It’s not a discovery of mine, but there may be a slant here that is useful for therapists and clients.

My belief is that almost every one of us was an invisible child, with secrets that were never told to our parents.  I don’t mean the cool secrets or little behavior misdemeanors.  I mean the suppressed feelings and needs that could never be said for whatever reason.  Or if said, were not heard clearly, were harshly or blandly or warmly brushed off, were shut down.  We became invisible, to ourselves and to others.

This invisibility is hard to see because children keep talking, doing things, joining with people and no one notices the lost parts, the lost person.  And time seems to make all this lostness go away, or be moot: We’re grown up and are immersed in a big world.

But we remain invisible, and in fact lost.  These are the married couples who “can’t communicate.”  It’s everyone who comes to therapy and can't grasp what is wrong, what went wrong.  It’s the lost stuff.

Try to picture what you lose when you can’t talk to your parents about your life, your sadness or fears, or are otherwise shut down inside.  It’s an interesting phenomenon.  Here’s an example.  Around age eight or nine, a couple neighborhood friends and I had an insect collection, made in an amateur version of the scientific way: mounted with pins in a wooden display box.  I forget if the insects were labeled: We may not have cared about the scientific names.  I loved that collection, and the ongoing project, with drive and passion.  We kept it in another kid’s garage.  One day his mother noticed it, probably thought it was some nonsense, and threw it out.  The boy told me about it, and I changed on the spot, a whole sea change.  That was the end of my interest in insects, or science.  I believe it was the end of my interest in building anything.  It may have been the end of my interest in hoping.  I’m not sure how far that wave carried.  Had I been the kind of boy who could talk to his parents, give them his feelings, or they the kind of parent who could see a child and not pontificate like roles, I believe everything would have been different.

Invisibility and the lost are what therapists should be dealing with.  It’s what all of our clients carry.  They don’t primarily carry “depression,” but the lost fire whose smoke is depression.  They don’t carry “abuse,” but the loss of love.  Her anxiety is the smoke from real fear in childhood that was never assuaged.  His anger is the zombie: It grows from hurt, parents’ ignoring it, and rises from the corpse of hope.  Our client remains an invisible, lost, gone person in the room, no matter how present she seems.  Maybe after so many years or decades she wouldn’t want to know about the lost.  But we should do our job.

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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.