In the Know, in the Now
I've been working with a client for three sessions now, and am intriguing myself with how she has set up her life. I mentioned her a couple of weeks ago in Into the Centre - she is in a care-giving profession, has been married for a decade or so and has a couple of kids. She's been diagnosed over the years as being "depressed." I add the "quotes" because, in this case, (actually, I seldom see depression. I see a lot of dissatisfaction with life and life-choices that is diagnosed, by family physicians, as depression - and out comes the prescription pad…) because my sense of her is that she has learned to "use" depression. Here's how she does it.
As a person who has been conditioned to be a helper, her life has been devoted to finding things that are "wrong" for other people, and fixing the wrong things. She learned, early on, to be a peace-maker and a "happy-maker." Now, of course, people who do this do it for several reasons. First, it papers over stress and difficulty. Second, it gives the caregiver a purpose and an identity. Third, there is the hidden motive of reciprocity.
"Reciprocity thinking" is that, if only I help, give, do for others - somehow others will do the same for me. And I suppose on some imaginary, perfect world where the sky is green, this may indeed happen. On planet Earth, I'm not so sure.
Now, why would this be? Well, the person being served soon sees the enabler as, well, a servant. Servants do not expect the people they serve to serve them. It gets confused within families, what with all of that supposed love floating around and all. I think the same rules mostly apply, though. The giver gives, forever, while the taker(s) take(s).
So, what's the way out? Well, from The Phoenix Perspective, one only gives what one chooses to give, and one asks for what one wants. I'm not meaning that to sound harsh. The "chooses" part goes like this: I do not give out of obligation. I do not give out of "role" ("I'm a mother, so therefore I have to eat the burned end of the pot roast.") I do not give to manipulate. I do remind those around me that their life-purpose is to learn to look after themselves - to stand on their own two feet. My life-purpose is to learn to stand on mine.
In other words, what I choose to do is voluntary. And my choice to be of service serves only one thing - through being of service, I learn about me.
My client has been trying to find her identity, earn points and be socially acceptable in her roles for 10 years. During that time, she has driven herself to exhaustion. She keeps waiting for it to be "her time," as time slips through her fingers. Yet the slippage has had only one result. It has caused her to try harder.
Now, here's the interesting part. The depression has become, for her, an unconscious tool. The one word that is non-existent in her vocabulary is "no." If she's asked, she does. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that a person so "motivated" is going to burn out. My client has avoided burn out by getting depressed. Think about it. Rather than having to say, "No, kids, I don't want to take you to see Harry Potter this week," she can say, "Mommy would love to take you, but mommy is sad right now. Maybe when mommy feels better."
Because in our society, it's not OK to say no. It is OK to get sick.
We had an interesting moment, she and I. Actually, two. I asked her to have a breath and just sit for a moment. Then, I asked her to direct her attention to the moment, and to tell me whether anything was wrong, right then. She scrunched up her face and started thinking. She began to list other stuff, past and future, that she was worrying herself over or obsessing about. I reached over and squeezed her toe. "Nope. Not in your head. Here and now, what's wrong?"
I was driving home later that night, listening to the audio book of The Power of Now, which Dar has been writing about. Tolle was talking about exactly this - about how, in the 'now,' there can be nothing wrong. In the now, as I've said many times, there are three choices - accept the situation, change it, or leave it. (The fourth option, whining about it, while doing nothing else, is the most popular, and is stupid in the extreme.)
My client was not into acceptance, as the situation, as it was, is intolerable, physically and mentally. She's not ready to leave, so her choices are two, whine or change things. She saw this, as she sat with me, breathing, and realized that, in the moment, nothing, absolutely nothing, was wrong.
The other thing about our time is that I've encouraged her to breathe. I encourage most clients to "take a breath," as, the more interesting the session becomes the more probable it will be that the client will hold his or her breath. This client, for some reason, I wanted to teach to breathe.
How this is done is described on our web site. I've gotten her down on the floor, in breathing posture, and have worked a bit getting her to breathe properly. In other words, to take time for her self to do something that only benefits herself. Boy, is she resistant to doing that.
� Wayne C. Allen 2000
She talks. She breathes funny. And she asks a ton of questions. Despite all of that, and despite not quite allowing herself to "get" breathing, last session her eyes popped open and she said, "I can feel my hands and feet!"
Amazing, eh? This was a big thing for her - as it should be. Finally, she sat up, and we sat side by side on the floor. A couple of times, she stretched out her hand, as she was talking, and touched the back of my hand. At one point, we just sat there and looked into each other's eyes. In this moment of presence, the rest of the world recedes and all there is is the breath, the moment and contact at the boundaries.
I may just let you know how this one unfolds - she's away for a week, then back at it. She has the potential, as do all of us, to tackle the game she has made for herself. She has the opportunity to find herself outside of the roles she has used to identify herself. She has the chance to stand forth in a new and vibrant way, and re-connect to the core of her being. To do so, she will have to change - everything.
Or, she can do the easy thing. She can go back to the old way, create of herself a victim, and stay stuck. She can "alter her prescription," and go numb.
Either way, life will go on.
I trust she will choose well.