Posted by: Marie | January 3, 2011

(480) The freedom of no expectations

Post #480
[Private journal entry written on Thursday, July 28, 2010]

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 Edward 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.

Photo by Martin Chen

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 Edward 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 disproval, I don’t think I could have done it. That was a huge step for me.

Something else that Edward 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 Edward 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 Edward 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 Edward 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 . . .


Responses

  1. That new way of relating sounds like a wonderful thing.

    • It is breathtaking!

  2. So positive, in every sense. I was also struck by Edward’s telling you at the beginning of the session that he would need to take a break at some point … I thought it had potential to serve (as evidently it did) as a great behavior-modeling opportunity.

    • Hey David –

      It seems like such a small thing (taking a break), but it had a huge impact on me. What caused me to decide it was a reasonable action is when I thought, “Now, Marie, would you prefer he sit through the session in pain?” Well, of course I wouldn’t!

      So, I’m happy to report that I have started pausing piano lessons, when needed, to get a drink of water, to blow my nose or to put on a sweater.

      Of course, I try my best to get those issues handled before the lesson, but, if a need arises, I allow myself to address it. And, I don’t run across the room in an apologetic manner anymore when doing so, I walk in a dignified manner. What a change for me!

      – Marie

  3. It’s a wonderful thing to learn, isn’t it? I remember what a difference it made to me, in showing houses, when I decided I no longer cared whether my clients knew I needed to stop for a bathroom break, or to get coffee, or just stop for a minute because I was tired. What amazed me was how often they also wanted a break, but didn’t want to say so!

    • Amen!

  4. An interesting flip side to this, however, is that a significant number of people tend to be troubled by manifestations of human needs in their therapists, esp. if they need the therapist to be perfect or somehow more than human…even something as simple as a bathroom break can raise feelings of abandonment. So I think you can feel good about the fact that you have done enough work with yourself to have been at the point of being able to use this as a teachable moment for yourself … although of course feeling abandoned (had it been discussed) would also have been a teachable moment, of a different kind.

    • You have an excellent point about how many of us need the therapist to be perfect and without “bad” human characteristics . . .

      I remember the first time therapist #2 (Mark) talked in very general terms about the sexual relationship he had with his wife . . . I think it was in the context of the benefit of having a long term, emotionally intimate, safe and secure relationship in which sex can be a positive part . . . for example, what he had with his wife.

      I totally freaked when he made that comment. I mean, during the session I didn’t let on that I was freaking out, but when I got home I cried and I could sleep . . .

      The image I had created of him was that he was asexual; therefore, he was safe. As soon as he cracked my image of him with the reminder he was indeed a sexual creature, I felt unsafe for a session or two after that. That was the beginning of me seeing him as a “real human”. Then, when we started locking horns and he became unreasonable, his human-ness became very obvious to me.


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