Within five minutes of taking her seat on the couch with me the tears are already streaming down her cheeks. It is a relief for her to have taken the step to come to me, but it is also complicated. She has not talked to anyone yet about visiting me. And not only that: she has not talked to anyone about many of the things she wants to present to me. Difficult thoughts arise about what to say if she gets caught here, even though she knows there is nothing to caught on. She considers not discussing it at home for the time being, even though she knows that sooner or later this will be inevitable. She is already preparing herself for an argument about the choice to seek therapeutic support, even though she knows that this is the only way she will be able to find more peace within herself in the near future, because she can bear the burden on her own anymore. She feels how more and more things are starting to go wrong inside her, although on the outside it all looks nice. At the beginning of our conversation she tells me, somewhat cool and collected still, that most people cannot see from her appearance how she is really doing, how she is always able to be there for others, but that as soon as she is alone, she really just wants to cry, wants to crawl away from the claims of the world, becoming invisible, so that no one demands or desires anything from her anymore. The loneliness, the feeling of not belonging anywhere, the experience that everything in life is chaos… they slowly but surely become unbearable and she no longer wants to numb everything at the moments when she feels like she can no longer deal with it in any other way.
“I don’t really know who I am and what I want… I really have no idea… Other people have goals, but I wouldn’t know what to do with life… And if you ask me what makes me feel good, what I like to do to feel better when I feel really bad… then I can hardly answer that… In fact, I have never looked at it or thought about it that way. There was always so much chaos… I was merely surviving, but I don’t want that anymore. I realise that I can no longer avoid the pain. If I want to do something with my life, I have to face that pain and somehow learn to look at it and deal with it differently. I have been very helpful to others and I have the impression that they really see me as the go-to-person, for them to talk about all their difficult things, but lately that has also started to bother me. Why does it always have to be about them…? And why don’t they address their problems and do I have to hear them again and again? I’m tired. I do not want it anymore. It’s time for me to take better care of myself. Well…and that’s why I’m here. I hope you can help me with that…”
We end up working four hours together. I already turned up the heating earlier in the day, because experience shows that when people get emotional, they get shivery. In the winter months it usually feels nurturing when a room is comfortably warm. The physiological effect is a greater chance of oxytocin flowing: skin pores and blood vessels will open up. This often also promotes emotional and psychological openness, partly because the entire organism is calmed by oxytocin. There is tea, there is something sweet, there are candles burning, and to be on the safe side there are even two crocheted woollen blankets available and two or three times I am tempted to wrap one around her when she is sobbing and shaking her head, hands over her eyes, crawling into the corner of the couch and silently reflecting on what is going on and what she perceives in her body during the story she tells.
I invite her to really feel what her body has to say to her, but for anyone who has not really listened to their own body in a long time, this is not an easy task at all. We take our time; with me, someone does not have to leave after 45 minutes because the time is ‘up’. With me, clients are allowed to sit for hours, so that we have time to explore things deeply and to allow intense emotions to finally come to the surface without having to immediately be muted or shielded, brushed away or pushed aside. She says it several times: “It feels like something wants to come out, like something is about to burst…”
That is already a very beautiful insight, the sensation that something is reporting from the body that it wants to be seen. I am with her and I see it; I hear what she says and she is surprised to hear me give her own words back to her. “When you say it like that, it sounds so logical… Yes, I’m really such a stupid loser for not having done anything with it all this time…” That is a statement that regularly appears in other forms as well and I strongly bring it to her attention both at the beginning and at the end.
I ask her how she would feel if I told her that she is a loser because she has still not addressed and resolved certain issues. I ask her if she would stay and if in that case we would have a nice and safe conversation. She laughs: “Uh… no. Definitely not!” We conclude that if she did not run right away, she certainly would not come back. We also conclude that this is however the way she addresses herself. The relationship with her true Self therefore also becomes unpleasant and unsafe. That is why I say at the beginning, halfway and at the end that the greatest gift she can give herself with this and any possible follow-up session is that she becomes kinder and more compassionate to herself.
She lacked a lot of love and safety as a child and that fact cannot be undone. That influenced how her personality and beliefs developed. What she can do, in difficult situations or when things are not going well, is to look at that little girl within herself with soft eyes and wonder what she might need now. That is what she can give herself and what she can also allow herself to receive from loved ones. She can understand that intellectually, but emotionally it is not yet self-evident. After all, it also requires her to express what is going on. It is logical that this can feel scary: you usually cannot change decades-long patterns overnight, especially not if they were associated with unsafety for so long or if they were the only way to survive. Today, however, she has made a start and taken an important, courageous step. I promise her that I will prepare the report of our meeting as soon as possible. With her permission I give her a hug before she leaves. She looks less troubled, but the sadness and vulnerability are visible. That is beautiful; she was able to soften during our conversation and broke down her wall a bit. I hope that she can maintain that softness, especially towards herself, and that she will let me know if I can do anything for her.