Scenes from the Therapy Room
Number 1 - "The Parent is the Boss and...."
I am talking with Richie about how he fights with his mother in his small NYC apartment when she looms over him screaming about how he hasn’t taken out the garbage. Richie, in these moments, usually sits down on a nearby chair, as if he is submitting –his eyes glazed. But in session, as I look at him acting out what happens, I realize things are not what they appear. Richie describes what his body is doing in the chair. He is tensing and bringing up his shoulders, shortening his breath to a trickle while secretly puffing his chest out in defiance. My guess is that Mom can’t see Richie doing this but on a visceral level, she can feel it and that makes her even more upset.
I teach Richie that there is an alternative. What would it be like if he could sense his own body’s reactions? Yes, it makes sense to sit down. If he noticed his breathing and deepened it, could he reflect that she really does have something to say and that he can, for the moment, just listen? What would happen if he brought his shoulders down? Would his breath deepen naturally? Could he think with a touch more clarity? Could he feel his own heart, knowing how hard it is to be yelled at, and know that this is a moment that will pass? That this uncomfortable moment is more likely to pass in peace for him and for his mother if he feels how he really feels rather than moves automatically into defense?
Defense breeds offense. Feeling allows for flow. In parent child relationships and in life.