Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Case #182 - Rejection in the imagination only

Barry was a conservative man, quiet, and unused to sharing his feelings.
We had some discussion about this. He said that one of his issues was fear of rejection, and his sense of alienation from others.
I asked how alienated he felt in the group: I want to take a general issue, and bring it into a more immediate context, one that can be worked with immediately. Otherwise people easily stay at a generalised level of an issue; I want to 'sharpen' the contact.
He said he did pull back in the group, out of the fear of rejection.
In Gestalt, we always encourage interpersonal contact, in the place of the fantasies that people have about others. So I set up an experiment where group members shared with Barry the amount they accepted or rejected him - expressed in terms of percentages. I set it up this way to be very precise in the feedback. Barry had a broad notion of rejection - but in fact people reject and accept different aspects of a person all the time: its a spectrum.
One by one, group members spoke of feeling between 90-100% acceptance of him. Barry was very surprised - he expected the number to be much lower.
However, he also said he didnt fully believe them. I asked by how much. He believed them 70%.
I accepted this - we always work with where people are. I said that even at this rate, the acceptance was still significantly higher than he expected.
I checked for his feelings - they changed singificantly, from alienation, to a cautious sense of belonging.
'Good contact' in Gestalt consists not only of positive contact and feelings, but also negative ones. To know where one stands with others, including the difficult parts, is a more authentic position and gives useful points of dialogue. In future sessions, I would explore with Barry and the group, what was in the 10% they didnt accept him. Thats useful information, and rather than remaining unsaid -  silently projected in Barry's mind - to actually talk about this results in grounded relationship.
Good contact is the grounded experience, in the here and now, of being with oneself fully, and with others fully - as we are, and as they are. It involves moving out of the realm of imagining into a much clearer connection.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Case #181 - Love fixes an abnormal knee

Jane asked about working with body symptoms.
She talked about her knees - one knee felt 'normal', the other 'abnormal'. She explained this meant her right knee felt fine, the left one she felt pain in, a 'lack of power', and that she didnt 'get enough support' from it. So she walked in an unbalanced way.
I was curious about these words - support, lack of power, and normal vs abnormal. The latter words contained some explicit judgements. I kept asking about her experience of the various words, but mostly she replied more about how she thought.
The focus in Gestalt is on experience - otherwise people stay too much with their stories or interpretations about their experience.  
I asked her - 'if we were friends, and I you were to ask me for support, what would that look like?'
Her reply was it would be to help her feel more relaxed. This gave a clear relational direction for the work.
I said that I felt a kind of spontaneous desire to support her, and wondered how that was for her.  
I asked her about the association she had with 'normal' and 'abnormal'. These words contain some potency of judgement, indicating there is some significant energy with them. I often pay attention to such 'power' words a person uses, as they generally indicate important figures.
Jane said that there was such a thing as a normal family life, and there were abnormals ones. I asked about the latter. She said where parents yelled at kids, like her parents did - that was an abnormal family life. I replied that parents did, in the course of normal parenting, yell at kids, so what was different about her experience?
She then revealed that her parents had never done something with her that indicated love. I didnt question this, just took it at face value as her experience. She said she now saw them in a different light - but again, this was about her thinking, not her feeling.
I then got it - my sense of warmth towards her was cocreated - she was drawing out the nourishment with her embedded longing, and I was automatically responding, in a parental kind of way. I remarked on this - I spontaneously wanted to give something to her.
I asked how that was for her. She gave me a thinking answer, so I asked her to notice her feeling. This was hard for her - she was not used to recognising and taking in such nourishment.  
Its important to keep a person focused on their feelings, as otherwise the intensity and power of the therapeutic relationship and interventions is diluted.
I proposed an experiment - I used the word 'love' - as she had indicated this was missing from her parents. I said - 'for a few minutes, we can sit silently, and I will send some love towards you, and you just need to receive it'. I made it clear this felt natural and spontaneous to me - I was responding to something in her, so it was real in that sense.
We did that.  
I checked how that was for her. She said her eyes, which had been dry before felt better - I noticed they seemed a bit watery. She felt relaxed and calm. I asked how her knee felt - rather surprised, she noted that  her knee felt much better, more balanced, less weak.
This arose from noting my natural response - this was not an artifice of therapy. We use our own spontaneous reactions in Gestalt to guide us - positive or negative, both are valuable.  

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Case #180 - Colourful beauty

Wendy came up enthusiastically. She seemed very nervous, and asked me what she was supposed to do. I explained that I was not going to direct her. She mentioned that her parents had many strong ideas of what she should do. Clearly, she was trying to queue me in to the role of directing her; already there was a lot of information I received about her field.  
Instead, I focused on the present: I reported what I saw - her black and white chequered jacket, a black and white shirt, her jeans, boots, and square glasses.
This kind of noticing the obvious has several benefits. Its grounding, for me, and the client, and brings us into the present. Its a way of making contact, allows the person to be seen, without interpretation; and it can invite their own meaning making to emerge.
In Wendy's case, she offered up that she chose dark colours in clothes, because she thought thats what other people would like. Again, she asked me what I wanted her to do now. I again declined. She was clearly very other-oriented.
I told her instead that I was interested in her 'dark side' - following on from the dark colours she said she chose.
I shared with her some details about my own 'dark side'. She then told me that in fact she would prefer to buy bright colours, but wanted to fit in.
She clearly had a big issue about doing what others wanted.
I could have gone into this, and into her parents expectations etc. But she was so extremely oriented in this way, I wanted to do something significantly different.
So I told her I was intersted in her inner world, her authentic self: her colourful preferences. I asked what colours she would pick if she bought the clothes she wanted. She named several colours. I asked the best one - she chose green (which had been the first one she mentioned).
So I asked her to have a little fantasy picture involving the colour green. Her picture was: a willow tree by a river.
I invited her to imagine herself as the willow, and decribe herself. She said 'I am beautiful'
I then told Wendy, 'I am interested in your beauty'.
I asked her to come into her body, and into the connection with me. I said this again: 'I am interested in your beauty'. She had not realised I was talking to her, as she had simply been identified as the tree in the fantasy.
She laughed, and tried to squirm out of the experience. I asked her to stay present, stay with me in connection, and stay with her feelings.
I repeaated again: 'I see your beauty'.
(I will note that Wendy was not an outwardly beautiful woman in the normal sense of the word. So this was not a description of her appearance, but of her inner self).
She found it hard to stay present, and take this in, but she tried for a little while.
I asked her to feel her own beauty as we stayed looking at each other. This was very challenging for her, and after a while she shifted the conversation.
It was clear that was as much as she could take in.
I was doing what we refer to in Gestalt as 'following the figure'. Starting with the outer figure of her clothes colours, and then following on with the figure of her authentic choice - the real Wendy - the colour green, her beauty. In this way, I am following the flow of her awareness. I am interested the points at which the client interrupts their awareness - in the first instance, its the orientation to what other's want. But once we got past that interruption, the flow evolved naturally until the next interruption - being with her 'colour', her beauty. Whilst I could then work with this interruption, its important to also respect the natural limit someone reaches, and return to the subject another time.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Case #179 - 0% present = zero intimacy

As Chanelle sat down, she commented on being distracted by something in the room which was out of place. She talked about how her attention often wandered; it was hard for her to stay focused on something. She said she was often not fully present, or not for very long.
I shared with her my own 'fog', especially when I woke up, but also at other times during the day, when I would drift off a little.
I asked how present she felt right now, with me, and commented that for me, it was about 85% - and told her about the 15% which was going on in the back of my mind. She said she was about 80% present.
I told her that some mornings I was only 30% present, and asked about her.
She said, with her husband, she was often 0% present.  
I asked her feelings - sadness.
I commented that to have intimacy required one to be present, so it seemed there was a lack of intimacy in her relationship.
Chanelle was a little surprised - she had equated intimacy with what you do in relationship, not how you are.
I pointed out that to be present required a sense of being in ones body, and senses…so this could be a good place to start.
To give an example, I told her some of the things I saw when I looked at her - without evaluation, simply reporting to her. This engages the senses, what we call the 'outer zone' in Gestalt. It is present centred, moving away from projections into the future or past.
I invited her to tell me what she saw.
She talked about my socks, which were colourful and had a flag on them. I told her something of my personal context, related to that.  
I checked in with her feelings. She sad she felt numb, with some pain in her shoulders. Staying with this, breathing more deeply, she started to feel some pain in her heart - a sense of contraction. As she told me this, she showed me by making a fist. I got her to stay with the fist, and she talked about feeling angry; as she squeezed her fist, she felt it more deeply.
I asked her to look at me, and show me how angry she felt.
She did that, and then reported that she couldn't focus on me anymore - a sign she had reached a limit.
She sighed…as I brought this to her attention, she got in touch with her sadness…she had an image of a white boot.  
Then this was replaced by an image she had of thorns.
She reported feeling much more peaceful.
These thorns clearly indicated that there was more anger to be processed, but this was enough for now.  
Not all things can be solved, all at once!
Finally we spoke about intimacy, with her husband, and the ways in which that could increase the intimacy without 'doing' anything different, but just being fully present with herself, and then the other person.
She had an experiential understanding of this now, as well as a clear path to the unfinished business of anger and sadness which was absorbing her attention away from being present.

© Lifeworks 2012


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