Freedom, A Cool Wind That Burns Your Face – Part II
Tiny Tom:I’m frightened!
Bobby: As well you should be. Freedom is scary. It’s a blast of cool wind that
burns your face to wake you up.
– Run, Freedom, Run from Urinetown the Musical
This is part II of a series. For the first part, see Freedom, A Cool Wind That Burns Your Face – Part I.
I walked in and sat and BN opened with “so you’re having a hard time?” (We tend to get straight to it. Any chitchat is done at the end of the session when setting up my next appointment). I told BN I was really activated and he asked why. So I basically did a dump of what I described in Part I. Near the end of my spew, I was saying how I just wanted BN to reassure me but he was in full-on therapist mode (I totally get the need for detachment but sometimes it just feels horrible ). He was great, he just looked straight at me and as calmly as possible said “It’s all going to be ok.” I cracked up. Then he asked me an interesting question (he’s really good at asking very hard questions which seem SO obvious once he says them, but that I would never think to ask myself.)
He asked me why I wanted to lose the weight? It was weird, because on one hand my thought was “It isn’t obvious?” I mean, I’m super morbidly obese (really want to track down and hurt whoever came up with THAT label), there’s no one on the planet who would think I didn’t need to lose weight. Doctors have told me I need to lose weight. My mirror tells me I need to lose weight every time I look in it. But then I realized that I had never thought to ask that question. I just knew I “should” lose weight. I started talking about my reasons: wanting to be in better health, increase my mobility, be able to enjoy walks and traveling and being able to sightsee, keep up with my presently hypothetical grandchildren. BN asked if those sounded like good things? It hit me later that I was talking about how scary it was to give up food and I think he was trying to get me to see this as going towards something good rather than just giving something up. But after giving the “right” reasons, and then sitting with it for a few minutes, to my surprise I realized I was angry. And I kind of erupted into a rant about what if I didn’t want to lose weight? What if I didn’t want to give up eating? I liked a lot of things in my life and I enjoy being sedentary (most of my favorite activities involve either a couch or a computer or cruise deck chair. I am a simple woman. 🙂 ) and why do I have to change? Maybe I don’t want to live longer if it means being miserable! I was REALLY angry and delivered a pretty good rant. BN told me later in the session that I was courageous to go past the “acceptable” reasons and talk about my anger and frustration.
To my everlasting shock, BN’s response was simply “So don’t lose weight.”
I kind of sat there stunned. I mean, shouldn’t a therapist urge you to do the healthy thing? My response was something along the lines of “huh?” BN went on to tell me that while I had to recognize that there were consequences for my health to making a decision not to change my eating, it is my life and I am free to do what I want. The part that really blew my mind? This wasn’t reverse psychology or any kind of trick. He meant EVERY word. It’s my life and it’s ok to do what I want. And whatever I decided to do would not affect our relationship one iota. I would still be welcome and cared for and attended to; treated as worthwhile, because I still would be. Such a foreign concept to me, that a relationship does not depend on pleasing the other person and adhering to their needs.
BN talked about how important it was that I am allowed to make my own decisions about my own life. That in order to live fully, I need to be free to actually be myself. My focus needs to shift inward, towards what I am feeling and thinking, rather than an anxious observation of the other, trying to please them so I won’t be left alone. I carry a very deep belief and fear that actually being myself will lead to my abandonment.
It’s hard to describe the level of fear that rises up. Do what I want? Do what I think it best, without “shoulds” or making other people’s opinion more important than my own? But that means I have to figure out how I feel and what I want. My brain and body just kind of stop and shut down; how am I supposed to figure that out? I told BN that everyone talks about how wonderful freedom is but that it can feel scary and threatening. I quoted the lyric I started this post with to him, as that seemed to capture the feeling. 🙂
As we were discussing my freedom to just be myself, I told BN that I was getting that picture of existential free fall. Telling me I needed to be true to myself was like pulling the floor out from under me, sending me into free fall. BN talked about how I needed to know that in truth there is always a floor underneath me. I started laughing and told him I had always thought of him as a piling on a dock, but now I needed to see him as a large piece of linoleum? We both laughed, but then he told me that he isn’t the floor. That the ground is always underneath but I needed to internalize my sense of its presence. Something very powerful happened when he said this. When he said he wasn’t the floor, I got a visual of me falling through a black void with nothing near me or underneath; hence the free fall because there is nothing with which to stop my falling. But when BN said I needed a sense of the ground, there was this flash of knowing it was my “picture,” under my control, and I suddenly just imagined a floor appearing underneath me (oddly it was a really nice wood parquet in a triangle pattern. Go figure! 🙂 ). I landed on it and the free fall stopped. I shared the mental visualization with BN and he thought it both powerful and significant.
So we left it at that. I knew I needed to be thinking about what it meant to be myself and allow the concept of making decisions based on what I felt and needed to sink in. We made an appointment for the following Friday. My next post will talk about what the following week and that next session were like. So much processing, so little time. 🙂
Just a FYI, I am flying out tomorrow and will be away for a week and a half. I will have internet access but am not sure how much time available, so I’ll do my best to get my next post up in a timely manner and reply to comments. I appreciate everyone’s patience.