|William Doherty David Schnarch Challenging Cases Clinical Mastery Anxiety Couples Linda Bacon Diets Future of Psychotherapy Alan Sroufe Attachment Community of Excellence Wendy Behary Clinical Excellence Great Attachment Debate Mary Jo Barrett Brain Science Gender Issues Ethics Trauma Men in Therapy Couples Therapy CE Comments The Future of Psychotherapy Etienne Wenger Attachment Theory Narcissistic Clients Symposium 2012 Mindfulness Mind/Body|
|Case Study - Page 5|
Over time, as our work expanded from attending to physical sensations to including emotions, Luc would close his eyes and identify feelings, which he said he still didn't do when he was alone. In one session a few months into our work together, after exploring his sadness about Cynthia more, he described a potent image. "It's like I'm drowning in the sea and any buoy will do. Cynthia wasn't a great buoy, but she was better than none." As he said this, he felt an intense fear, and began to weep. Sitting with him, I experienced nameless terror, an experience that I believe was exchange.
Sometimes, when we experience exchange, we feel just as lost and confused as the person we're sitting with. In whatever way an experience arises, it's still up to us to work with what's now our own, however. Because of many years of meditating in all kinds of states of mind, I was able to stay present and grounded in my body and feelings as Luc contacted his fear, but it was difficult. Like him, I didn't have a story to explain these intense feelings in the moment. In retrospect, I could see that I'd glimpsed the pain he was doing his best to avoid. We can never be certain that an experience arises from exchange, but knowing about exchange opens up possibilities to explore with our clients.
As he'd begun to describe his sadness, Luc had been, as usual, out of touch with me even as he was in touch with his own painful inner experience. After a while, once his crying was spent and he'd described his own experience to me more fully, I shared with him what I'd felt. As he listened, nodding and acknowledging that what I described was the sort of terror he'd felt, we shared a sense of genuine connection. He looked directly at me, his face relaxed, and I had a feeling of being met.
This lasted a few minutes before he started on another story, and we both noted this shift. Then Luc came up with what became a powerful metaphor for him. "Maybe I could learn to swim," he said. "Then I could swim both by myself and with others. I wouldn't have to drive Cynthia and others away by hanging on so desperately." In our work together, we continued to use the idea of learning to swim—becoming able to be with himself, without having to find distraction, even when he was alone.
Luc and I then started to work with identifying and re-owning the feelings and thoughts he projected onto others, especially onto Cynthia. For example, one day he was listing a number of things he viewed as being wrong with her. "She's so pathetic. She lives behind a wall. Behind that wall, she's a perfectly OK person, but she doesn't know it. I can see how good she is, but she can't." I invited Luc to try on these attributions as projections—to experiment with saying about himself, using first-person pronouns, what he'd been saying about Cynthia. I explained that often we attribute to others thoughts and feelings that we'd prefer to ignore in ourselves. I suggested he try it and see whether anything he said felt like it fit his own experience.