Editor’s note: This is part 42 of Marie’s story.
[Private journal entry]
In the two days since my last therapy session with Carl, I have been feeling giddy…alive… almost buzzed. I keep wondering about this feeling…what is it?
I have come to the conclusion that this is what it feels like when I am really seen and heard by another human being. Maybe this is what intimacy feels like.
I so appreciate that there is zero judgment with Carl. He doesn’t try to talk me into thinking or feeling a different way. He doesn’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t feel and think. He simply creates space for me to do whatever I believe I need to do. And, I’m able to do things I never dreamed I could do in the presence of another human.
That is awesome.
I keep thinking back to my sessions with Mark, my previous therapist, and the many times I planned out in great detail how I would act out my feelings…how dramatically I would demonstrate the overwhelming sense of I pain I feel. In my planning, I always had to figure a way I could act out without being overly dramatic…
I wasn’t getting Mark’s attention…he was in the room with me, but he was focused on his own ego and drama and not on me and my experiences. So, I always felt like I was trying to get him to pay attention to me. I was hoping I could get his attention with a little bit of drama…just enough to get him to notice and understand my pain. But, not so much drama that it would seem I was looking for attention just for the sake of having attention.
Mark blocked off any areas of his office that might be used for dramatic expression—I could do it only if I followed his restrictive rules. I knew my dramatic expression would be severely judged by him.
Creating a plan that stayed within those tight parameters was next to impossible…I was never able to actually implement a plan like that; I just stayed frozen. There was always too much terror of what Mark might think of me if I acted out in a dramatic way.
With Carl, I don’t have to create intricate plans for being dramatic. He creates a space where it is perfectly acceptable for me to act out in the way I feel like acting out in that moment. He has made it very clear that drama is actually appreciated. He is trying to draw the drama out of my frozen body and into the open space. He offered up extra furniture and pillows in an effort to extend even more hospitality towards my dramatic expression. I don’t need to use the drama to get his attention; instead, I’m free to use the drama for my own healing.
What a concept.
It has been my history to glass over and pretend that nothing is amiss when I get triggered. But, in Carl’s office, I’m not glassing over—I’m staying with my experience and feeling it—verbalizing it and physically expressing it
Being in the corner of Carl’s office, hiding under the blanket, was a very effective way for me to demonstrate the severity of the pain. That was the first time in my life I have ever been given the space to demonstrate the pain and to have another human bear witness to the physicality of that pain. That was a huge gift to me.
Carl has occasionally called attention to my tendency to always push to be accomplishing things because I feel I’m “bad” if I’m not accomplishing. Whenever he has said something along those lines, my reactive thought has been, “But, am I supposed to sit and do nothing on purpose just to prove that I’m not attached to accomplishing?” That seems like a silly solution to me—it would just be doing nothing as a way to do “nothing” the “right” way.
So, maybe the better answer is to examine my reasons for staying focused and busy. I believe I stay busy and focused and goal-oriented because I’m doing what I want to do, not because it proves anything about myself. I have things I want to learn and skills I want to master—I enjoy learning.
And sometimes I feel like doing nothing. In those moments, I usually can give myself permission to do nothing because I feel I have worked hard enough to earn the right to do that. I think this is what Carl is trying to call my attention too—that maybe I don’t need to require myself to “earn” downtime. Maybe I can learn to see downtime as something I do because it provides a joyful opportunity for me to become aware of the now. That way, I can appeal to my need to always be productive and still give myself downtime.