Thursday, July 23, 2015

Case #150 - Distracted...or defiant?

My first comment to Marcy was - I need to ground myself to start with. I was feeling a little flustered, and needed to come into the present. I often found myself tussling with Marcy; it was hard work doing therapy with her.
In Gestalt, the therapist needs to ensure that they are available, and if not, then declaring that is bringing oneself into relationship, so the client knows 'who' they are on the other end of.
The first thing I noticed was her clothes. They were beautiful - traditional Chinese. I commented on that. Not as a compliment to her per se, but because I appreciated them - more in the way of acknowledgement, recognition, and saying something about myself.
I told Marcy that it was easy for me to tussle with her, and I didn't want to do that. I told her I liked her resilience, and also felt irritated and a bit cautious with her.
This kind of authenticity is essential from a Gestalt point of view. To simply work with the client, and ignore my own experience does neither of us a service.
Marcy understood. She often had this experience with people - though they often would not articulate their experience directly.
Next she told me 'I don't dare to show my gifts'.
I asked what these gifts were. And whether she could show them to me now.
When people make general statements, we always invite them to make them specific, and in the present. That makes them available for contact.
Indeed, as I asked this, I saw her tears form.
In that moment, the content was not important. What was significant was a sense of connection in that place. I acknowledged this.
This is what I found difficult about Marcy - it was normally very hard to bring her to this place of contact. No amount of questions, sharing, interventions would drop her into present, open hearted contact.
So, here she was, available, and I stayed with them moment, with her. There was a deeper sense of connection.
Now we were able to do some therapeutic work.
She said her issue was that she couldn't focus on things, was distracted easily. She was interested in so many thing.
I shared with her my own difficulty in not being distracted at times. Such sharing promotes a sense of connection, of shared humanity (in Object Relations terms, Twinship).
This sounded like an embedded pattern, suggesting the field.
So I asked Marcy about the phenomena of distraction and losing focus in her family, growing up.
She explained that her mother had a lot of pressure and expectations on her. But that her mother was also very inconsistent in her response. So Marcy learned to be very rebellious to the pressure.
I shared that I also was a kind of rebel, could be very defiant.
Again, this helped her feel connected, and made way for deeper explorations.
This was also useful, as there is a great deal I know about my own defiance, and that can help me understand something about her rebelliousness, and know what to ask.
Marcy explained how she would like to do meditation regularly, but because of her rebelliousness, it was hard to do this.
So I firstly asked her what exactly this would look like - Marcy needed a lot of grounding, as she often talked in a very abstract way. She said she would like to do 30 minutes, twice a day. Once at 7am, the other time before bed.
I knew from her description of her rebelliousness, that there would be a reaction to this idea, unless it really felt comfortable for her. Getting the details allowed her to name what suited her, and to own that herself.
And, at the same time, I wanted to surface her defiance. So I asked about that part of her…what it said to this schedule.
Of course, the underdog part said - 'no..not committing to more than 5 minutes per session, twice a day'.
I invited her to dialogue between these parts, and the agreement in the end was that she would absolutely do it at least 5 minutes twice a day, and more if she felt like it.
This was a point of integration. It is important not to just go with someone's grand agendas for change, or to do healthy things, even though that might be very good for them…because in the end, unless they do it with their whole being, the underdog will undermine - as she put it 'be distracted and not focus on things'. That was sign that she was split, and it is these splits we pay attention to in Gestalt.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Case #149 - Fear of knives

Catrina talked about a fear of knives.
When she was 6, she was with her father. She had to make the dinner, by herself.
She cut the veggies in hurry, and slipped on a potato, cutting her finger. There was blood.
She hid it from her father, and never told anyone about it.
As she was telling me this, she was holding her finger.
This was the present dimension of her pain, which I brought attention to.
In Gestalt we generally want to bring things into the room, into the present; to bring awareness into the body, into relationship.
So I suggested a Gestalt experiment. I brought in a knife.
I told her it was inert - it could not jump up. It was at my command. The emphasis in this process was on safety, within the risk - that is the way a Gestalt experiment is conducted.
I put the knife at a distance. Then slowly, in stages, brought it closer.
I touched the handle first. Then the flat of the blade.
I instructed her how to touch it. I then showed her how I could touch the sharp blade itself and not get cut - simply putting my finger on it, without moving.
I demonstrated all this.
Then I invited her to follow the same steps, with her uncut hand.
When it came to touching the blade, I got her to put her finger on my finger, where I touched the blade.
I told her I was there to support her all the way.
This was of course a deeply emotional process for her.
After she successfully touched the knife, and its blade, I brought her to the future, playfully: 'what do you think you husband will say when you come home and are able to touch a knife! How surprised will he be!'. Because she had this knife phobia, she never cooked, so her mother had to stay with them, to cook.
I pointed out that she now had the freedom that her mother no longer had to stay in the house.
This was future pacing - anticipating the result of the changes, extending the effect of the experiment.
Then I did the same slow process with her other hand, firstly with her ring finger.
Then we did the same thing with the finger which had been cut.
Even after this, she still had fear in her body. The knife incident represented more than just the traumatic experience. Her father never gave her any nourishment at all; and her parents would fight, and threaten to cut each other with the knife. So the fear of knives went deeper.
So I played a game - I pulled an angry face, and she startled. I told her my angry face was a 'fake', I was not really angry. So I would count down and then pull the face - increasing safety. Then she was to pull an angry face back. The experience was very intense for her. She screamed, very loudly.
She felt an aching in her chest. We did this several times, then repeated standing (to mobilise the energy). She screamed again, a very sharp sound. I touched her chest as she screamed - to bring awareness to the centre of the pain and anger.
Then she felt her aggression, and wanted to hit me. I took a pillow, and she hit very hard.
After this, there was no fear left.
An experiment like this evolved, starting with the theme, and then developing as the energy unfolded. The client essentially directs what happens, and I pick up the clues, and create the setting.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Case #148 - Balancing Masculine and Feminine

Sarina was very sad. She said she wanted to balance masculine and feminine within herself.
I noticed her socks - they were red. She said that a master who she followed told her that red was not a good colour to wear - it was too masculine. So now she tries to wear grey colours. She said she was desperate to balance the masculine and feminine energies.  
She had had a successful life. She had been a mayor, the editor of a newspaper. Men liked her.  But she had given up her job because she felt herself too much in the masculine world and did not want to become more like that. Again, she reported feeling sad, and unhappy.
She drove a small jeep. She liked driving jeeps. But she didn't want to drive a big one because it would be too showy, and again, too masculine. There was a conflict within her.
I asked her to choose something to represent that conflict - she chose a red candle. She wanted to put the candle to one side, not have it between us. But when she did that, she started to feel panic.  
She recognised that the  the candle represented her mother. And I was in the father role.  She said that she had lived her life to please her father, and his ambition.  But now, she didn't want to live for anyone else.
So, I took the opportunity of being in the 'father' role to give her some supportive messages. I told her her- its ok to be yourself, to wear red if you want, to drive a jeep if you want; its ok to live your own life. Then you will attract a man who likes you, just the way you are.
Her response to this was to tell me that she would like to take me to the movies.
I took this as an indication that I had shifted roles from representing father, to being more a peer, a man she could get close to, go out with; the erotic dimension of this was coming forward. She was showing me her vulnerability and her yearning, and so I acknowledged this to her.
She came back to her statement about balancing the masculine and feminine.  So I told her a little story. I made it up - about a woman who was capable, and a man who met her and liked her capability. I talked about the man being able to have a balance as well, to show his softness. About both of them moving between masculine and feminine capacities.
A story such as this gives a sense of permission, provides possibilities which may be desired but not as yet achieved. Her indication of vulnerability towards me meant she was in a space to take this in.
I gave her the homework, to light a red candle each day, and to do something that felt feminine for her. She needed to feel herself moving into her feminine, and clearly red was a colour that was important to her - she wore the red socks, even though she wasn't 'supposed to' according to the master.
The emphasis in Gestalt is on the person finding themselves, developing the areas they want to. In this case, masculinity and femininity are very much socially defined. So I wanted to help her explore what that meant for her, to define her own self of self within that. I did not want to replicate the 'master' who imposed his ideas of what it meant to be masculine or feminine.  
Finally I told her another story - of Amelia Earhart, who flew solo across the oceans when this was beyond the sense of what society believed a woman could or should do. This provided her with both an example (support) and also a metaphor, which should could use to construct her own sense of herself as an adventurous woman.

© Lifeworks 2012


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