Greetings Gentle Readers,
Yes, I am still alive! This break stretched a bit longer than I expected. I was working very long hours right up until we left for vacation on October 23. We had a wonderful vacation, including a family reunion cruise that went incredibly well. So much so that everyone insisted on booking another one in March of 2017. This was a quite pleasant surprise, as we were not at all certain going in that everyone would enjoy it. And I had to laugh at myself because by the end of the trip, I realized that I was feeling much closer to everyone and much more up on what is going on in their lives, when it ruefully dawned on me, that IS the point of family reunions. Continue Reading
Veryhopeful posted a question on the Psych Cafe forums and the more I thought about answering her, the more I realized it was an excellent topic for a post. So with her kind permission, I am repeating the question here, then attempting to answer it.
Does anyone find it strange that the T is so important to us but yet he has so many clients. How is it possible for them to really care or separate each persons “stuff”. I’ve asked him this because it really bothers me that I have one of “him” in my life and he has dozens of “me” in his life. We all want to feel important to them but are we really? It’s so personal for us but not for them; like they are just an illusion or some emotionless guide…But what bothers me about him is that he takes no break in between clients and I find that really odd.
My husband and I went on a trip to Colonial Williamsburg last Fall. For those of you who have never heard of it, Colonial Williamsburg is a living history center. Williamsburg was the first capital of Virginia and was still the capital during the American Revolutionary War. Many of the buildings, including the Governor’s Palace, House of Burgesses, Armory, homes, churches and coffee shops have been restored and there are re-enacters in colonial costume at all the various buildings to teach you what life was like at the time. There are also re-enactments of major events leading up to and during the revolutionary war (we got to storm the Governor’s Palace which was pretty cool, I’ve always wanted to storm a palace!) and talks are given by famous people, such as George Washington, who even took questions from the audience (which was impressive, the man had an incredible grasp of both Washington’s life and the events of the revolutionary war.) I love revolutionary history (my humble apologies to my British readers. 😀 )and found this fascinating.
One display I found especially striking was in one of the museums. An early mental hospital had been established by a Dr. John M Galt, who was one of the early adopters and strong promoters of more humane treatment of mentally ill people. Conditions up until that time were pretty horrific, with many patients chained up and left in their own filth, treated worse than livestock in many cases. He was an early proponent of treating the mentally insane with respect and compassion.
Among the displays was the following letter written by a resident of the hospital:
It would have rendered me most agreeable pleasure to have been with you all these Christmas times, but Dr. John M. Galt, the gentleman under whose care and protection I am here placed, does not think my mind sufficiently cured for me to leave here yet so I will not say in this epistle when you will see me, probably never.
The Doctor is a gentleman whom the whole world ought to love and respect. To speak more concisely and emphatically, I do not think that I ought to desire a better or more worthy friend in this world. …Be not disposed to think me exaggerating, for I am writing the real truth, and am bold too, in having the gratification of writing thus. I’ll now bring this epistle to a close not knowing what else beneficial or amusing to write you.
Yours until death,
The Galt Family Papers
Earl Gregg Swem Library
College of William and Mary
Reading this was so powerful. The man who wrote this letter lived in such different times. The culture, the technology, the rhythms of life were vastly different from what I experience, yet the feelings he spoke of echoed across the years with a piercing familiarity. Someone had come alongside him, and given him compassion and acceptance and understanding and at a time when those things were exceedingly rare for someone with mental problems. And he reacted in a way which resonated deeply with me: he saw Dr. Galt as an amazing human being, one deserving of love and respect. He was grateful to speak of his esteem of this man as he saw him as so deserving.
While human cultures, mores, beliefs and customs change, human beings do not. There is a reason we can look at, and be moved, by a piece of art conceived and executed thousands of years ago. Human beings have always, and probably always will, struggle to understand ourselves and our purpose, to make sense of our experiences and distill meaning out of our lives. And one of the most important ways that we do this is to connect with other human beings. We can only know ourselves in relationship, by being clearly reflected by another person. So it is these connections, these attachments, that evoke our most powerful feelings.
So across the years, I found a kindred spirit. He wrote letters home to speak of his love and esteem and I write letters to a world-wide community to speak of mine. But the deep feelings of gratitude and respect are the same and spring from the same source. The next time you are wondering why your therapist is evoking such strong feelings, I hope you remember this post and that these feelings come from deep within and are integral to our humanity. Perhaps one of the privileges of needing to heal is to be conscious of our deep attachments and how they have shaped us. Know you are not alone in how you react, in this or any other time where humans have reached out to each other for meaning.
Greetings gentle readers,
I have been doing very intense work lately in therapy, mainly centered around shame. A deep, excoriating shame provoked when I go anywhere near talking about my body or my weight. In the midst of attempting to engage with the shame (which has been a slow, disjointed process because I just DO NOT WANT TO GO THERE), a situation occurred in my life that has triggered a massive amount of shame to be kicked up. One of those “coincidences” in therapy that neither BN or I believe in. Continue Reading
In the comments after my last post, It’s still no, but still helpful, a number of questions were asked that I felt needed a longer answer than I would want to put in a comment and since they were all related, I decided to address them in a new post. They appear below:
Greeneyes: … how did on earth have you gotten through the struggle of accepting there’s so much we can’t get that we want? And how have you gotten through how painful the therapy boundaries are?
MetaMantraMe: How can we tell if we really are being denied something in the current time that we should be receiving? Or if it is, indeed, a projection of the unmet, and old, need from before onto today?
Liese: … when will we know that we’ve grieved all the losses from the past and that what is happening to us in the present is from the present? In other words, when will our feelings simply be about what is going on now?
NOTE: Since I’m going to be discussing couples counseling in this post, I just want to be clear in order to be fair to my husband, who has no voice here, that the problems in the marriage were complex, based on both our pasts and our reinforcing those patterns for each other. We were both, most definitely, part of the problem. I am also happy to say that we both took responsibility for our part and worked very hard to change. We just celebrated our 26th anniversary and are happier than we have ever been.
So I thought it would be good to go back to the beginning and explain how I ended up working with the Boundary Ninja. It was not a simple, straight-forward process, but interestingly enough contained the dynamic that I most needed to see. Which after a number of years and one break in therapy, I am finally working through. 🙂 Therapy does not usually take the most direct path (or in my case, even an intelligible one) for long periods of time. 🙂 Continue Reading
In the middle of a difficult session dealing with my stubborn fears and lack of ability to retain a sense of our connection lately, we had this exchange:
BN: It took a long time to get here. (referring to my willingness to be vulnerable and share my feelings)
AG: See, right there, that’s it. I feel like it’s taking me way too long to get through this.
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