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I worked with a client for many sessions, and I certainly intrigued myself with how she set up her life.
I mentioned her a couple of weeks ago in The Pathless Path — she was in a care‐giving profession, had been married for a decade or so, and had a couple of kids.
She’d been diagnosed over the years as being “depressed.” I add the “quotes” because my sense of her was that she’d learned to “use” her diagnosis of “depression” to keep from dealing with the mess that was her life.
Here’s how she did it.
As a person both trained and conditioned to be a helper, her life was devoted to finding things that were “wrong” for (or with) other people. After all, you can’t help is nothing is wrong. She’d then have a purpose — she’d fix what was wrong.
She’d learned from her dad to be a peace‐maker and a “happy‐maker.” 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, this will force others to 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 helper as, well, a servant. And masters do not serve the people who serve them. It does get confused within families, what with all of that supposed love floating around and all, but 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 — freely, and without expectation of reward — 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 had spent 10 years trying to find her identity, earn points and be socially acceptable in her roles. During that time, she drove herself to exhaustion, and managed to “win” a depression diagnosis.
She was waiting for it to be “her time,” as time slipped through her fingers. The slippage had only one result. She tried harder.
Now, here’s the interesting part. Depression became her unconscious tool.
One word was non‐existent in her vocabulary= “no.” If she was asked, she did what she was asked. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that a person so “motivated” is going to burn out.
My client 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 a movie this week,” she would say, “Mommy would love to take you, but mommy is sad right now. Maybe when mommy feels better.”
Because in the world she’d created, it was not OK to say no. It was OK to get sick.
I proposed an exercise or 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?”
In the now, there are four 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 was intolerable, physically and mentally. She was 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.
It just WAS. And she saw the obvious — she had choices.
The other thing I taught her was to breathe. I encourage everyone to “take a breath,” as, most people hold their breath when stressed.
breathing posture, from our website
This particular client was quite resistant to getting into breathing. She’d talk. She’d breathe funny or keep “forgetting” what she was doing. And she asked a ton of questions instead of breathing. Despite all of that, and despite not quite allowing herself to “get” breathing, on her third try, her eyes popped open and she said, “I can feel my hands and feet!”
Amazing, eh? That was a really big thing for her — she was feeling instead of thinking.
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 that moment of presence, the rest of the world receded and all there was was the breath, the moment and the connection.
We all have the potential to shift the games we have made for ourselves. We have the opportunity to find ourselves outside of the roles we have used to identify ourselves. We have the chance to stand forth in a new and vibrant way, and re‐connect to the core of our beings.
To do so, we have to change — everything.
Or, we can do the easy thing. we can stick to our old ways, make ourselves into victims, and stay stuck. We can “alter our prescription,” or we can go numb.
Either way, life will go on.
I trust you will choose well.