Marie: What Carl Nassar Does Differently in Therapy

Posted By: on June 29, 2015
photo of a woman writing in her journal about her therapy session with Dr. Carl Nassar

Editor’s Note: This is part 31 of Marie’s Story.

It’s been a full day since my therapy session and I’m still riding the high created by the intense emotional connection I experienced with Carl Nassar during the session.

I’ve had a lifetime of being hyperaware of the expectations of others. I’ve spent so much energy trying to figure out what the “right” thing to do is… trying to figure out what will keep me from being rejected, criticized, punished or annihilated. And then, I find this quirky therapist who consistently shows me another way of being in relationship.

When I walk into his office, I find no expectations. Wherever I am in my journey is fine with him. Whatever emotional state he finds me is acceptable to him. Whatever I did or didn’t do in order to prepare for our session is fine with him.

For the first time in my life, I have found a space in which I find relief and comfort. I want to go to his office because it is a positive and uplifting experience. I feel welcome. I believe he is glad I am there. It seems he enjoys spending time with me. In his presence, I feel safe, supported and protected.

That is a new experience for me—a new experience I am cherishing immensely.

For my entire life, I have believed I am required to say whatever I want to say as quickly and as succinctly as possible. I am required to not waste time and breath on unnecessary conversation. If I want to get an entire thought expressed, I am required to condense it into the few seconds that exist before my audience gets bored and turns their attention elsewhere.

So, you can imagine my amazement each time Carl sits quietly and waits for me to think and feel and process. It is fine with him if I take five minutes to figure out an answer to one of his questions. He just sits and waits. He doesn’t change the subject. He doesn’t hurry me. He doesn’t look frustrated and uncomfortable. He doesn’t give me advice.

He just sits quietly and waits. And that is an incredible gift.

I think the fact that I was actually able to put the blanket around my shoulders says a lot about the safety and acceptance I feel in his presence. If there had been any level of judgment or disapproval, I don’t think I could have done it. That was a huge step for me.

Something else that Carl does that is beneficial for me is to encourage me to express, explore and embrace my emotions… all of my emotions. I remember a while back, Evan left a comment in which he encouraged me to do the same. It was one of the first times I seriously considered the possibility that the presence of anger is positive.

I thought I had been doing pretty well with letting go of my judgments of my emotions since that time. However, the conversation with Carl yesterday concerning how I am “supposed to feel” about the way my parents raised showed me I still have some more  work to do there. I hadn’t quite comprehended the idea that all my emotions are positive and useful and valuable—that I don’t have to attempt to control what emotions I feel. But, yesterday, the light bulb came on for me—again. I find it very freeing that it would be okay for me to simply allow my emotions to show up, whatever they are, and embrace and welcome them. I can let go of the “right,” “wrong,” “good,” “bad,” “acceptable,” “deplorable” judgments.

One thing that Carl did yesterday caused me to do some subsequent pondering. I was rather surprised when he said he would need to take a break to go to the bathroom sometime during the session. At the time, I thought, “Is it reasonable for a therapist to go to the bathroom in the middle of a session?”

Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I’m leaning towards an affirmative answer. I mean, he had a need, and he took steps to address it.

Maybe I can learn from that. If he can acknowledge his needs when they arise, maybe it would be okay for me to do the same. For example, maybe I could be more comfortable asking for the window to be opened or for softer Kleenexes. Maybe I could pause a piano lesson to get some water if my mouth becomes dry.

I’ve never allowed myself to address my needs if it might inconvenience another person. I have always believed the more appropriate behavior would be to suffer through it. I have this tape playing in my head that says I am supposed to have all my needs addressed before a scheduled event or appointment—if I don’t, I’m being unforgivably irresponsible.

Maybe it doesn’t need to be that way.

And, maybe I could have allowed Carl to help me fold the blanket at the end of the session for the same reason. I didn’t take him up on his offer because I didn’t want to an unnecessary bother. I didn’t want to take up any more of his time and energy than absolutely necessary. Maybe it would have been a good exercise for me to have allowed him to help me.

Maybe I can learn a different way of relating to people! Maybe I can learn to enjoy having people expend time and energy on me!

That would be cool…

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