Saturday, February 6, 2016

Intervention tidbit #9: The sofa

I don’t have a Freudian couch in my office, but I do have a sofa, with fake leather skin, fluffy comforter draped across the back, a couple throw pillows.  Not long ago a 24-year-old client had a deeply healing session – one of my best in a year or two – because she lay on the sofa and thereby became the child under the adult persona.

We can talk to our adults week in and week out, and they can experience important feelings, or one feeling that must be focused on, and you never see a real breakthrough where he or she is changed for good, from this moment on.  This is what happened, that morning.  During the process, of tearfully calling to her father – Why couldn’t you love me?  I needed you to love me – there was no change or epiphany, because that was the stage of becoming – becoming real, of allowing the real person to emerge for the first time since its childhood burial.  That was the stage of hurting.  But actually, it was someplace during that grief bleeding and calling – at some split-second in the midst of the process – that dread of being real, fear of pain of facing an uncaring father, turned into pain release and absolute truth, which is nothing but redemptive.  It was a real birth. 

How does it work that shame, guilt and pain disappear when the child in the adult feels and expresses them through?  You re-own yourself, which is intrinsically good and not guilty or shameful: Guilt and shame come from the parents, are layers of destruction over feeling.  Tears melt the embodied assumption, inherited from those parents, of one’s wrongness.  And crying as a child is to give the pain to someone in the room, the therapist.  Adults who cry are still trapped in their adult mental space which consists in part of isolation from help.  They have long been lost above the scar tissue over their heart, cannot feel their real need, cannot need you.

This young woman also discovered, uncovered in the talking – like a new world – identity-feelings she had never been aware of, and therefore became her richer self, her identity.  That kind of discovery makes you a different person, and this was “on top of” the different person who no longer felt the weight of all the pain (had, in a way, given it to me), and who no longer wore the mantle of her parents’ shame and guilt.  Despite my self-label as a “primal-related therapist,” I had too infrequently gone here with clients, to where I couldn’t remember and quickly had to re-find the right instructions for her, on the sofa.  Was she to regress to her little girl and cry for her daddy?  Or was she to be the adult who felt her childhood’s feelings within her?  This latter was the right modus, because it kept her in the felt safety of her adult life, the power of now, despite its self-medicative nature.

This was her fifth or sixth session, very new in therapy and probably the best way to do it, as now there would have to be more discoveries through abreactive reliving, and we wouldn’t have been going on so long and become tired out.  What will she change into?  Already she knew the certainty that this all would have to be shared with her husband; that she could and must tell him her love for him, no longer shamefully afraid that he, too, would leave her.  These waves would push others toward a new shore – standing real and strong and grave before her family?  Returning to school?  She would become a better mother – another certainty.  And, maybe sooner than usual, she would leave therapy.

I can love losses like that.


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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.