Case #161 - Peaceful but lonely

Deb talked about her sadness.

I told her I wanted to get to know a bit about her first, before going to that place. I need a sense of contact with a client, some grounding in the relationship between us. She talked about her life, her professional, her family. She said that she had a peaceful marriage. I found this phrase ‘a peaceful marriage’ to be interesting - it’s not something I hear a lot from clients. Mostly their marriages contain some conflict.

I was curious. As Deb looked at me, she said that she was afraid I would' see something' in her. As she said this, she put her hand on her tummy, and then on her womb area. She said although she was afraid, she also wanted me to see this part of her. This gave a clear direction of how to proceed with her - she welcomed exploration, and she also needed sensitivity from me. I asked how she experienced the connection with me. She said ‘peaceful’. Again, I found this a slightly strange word - reassuring, but unusual in the context of her sadness. Especially given she also reported feeling sad, and afraid. Her emotion seemed very non-verbal, very internal, and complex. Her words were not filled out with stories and examples. The hiddenness of what was inside her gave me the idea of working somatically with her.

So I suggested she lie on the floor. Thats one way to start somatic psychotherapy work. Stop talking, and focus on the body. For some time, I was with her, especially watching her breathe. Deb said she couldn’t feel anything in her body. I asked her to wiggle her toes - to bring the awareness into her body. She felt uncomfortable - she said that I was too close, so I moved back a little. As she wiggled her toes, tears came to her eyes, and a memory of being 6. Her parents had sent her to live with her aunt, and only saw her every few years.She said she felt terribly lonely, but it was ‘peaceful’ at her aunt’s place.

I asked to touch her belly. I could see the interruption in her breathing there. I asked her to touch herself there in order to bring awareness to this place, and to help guide her awareness into her body through this as a starting point. She agreed. She started to feel a little more - she said ‘I feel alive for the first time’. Another memory surfaced of being 8; she thought of ‘leaving’ - she felt terribly empty in her life.

She then found a sense of purpose at school - to excel. But she was still lonely. As she spoke, I put some pressure on her belly, especially as she breathed. This was to help move the energy there, and to intensify the emotional experience, as it seemed that her ‘calmness’ was in fact her creative adjustment, to avoid the feelings. Deb felt an increased sense of connection with herself and me. I asked her to put her hand on her womb area. She felt reported that she felt soft. She said,“I feel as if I don’t have a heart” - again, then effect of the long loneliness. So I (after asking) put my hand on her heart. We stayed like that for some time. Deb then reported feeling fully alive, whole, and connected. Her sense of loneliness was gone.

As I looked in her eyes, I told her,“I feel connected to you.” I asked her experience. She said that she experienced connection, for the first time, from that place of loneliness. Working somatically is generally part of Gestalt - we are interested in peoples embodied experience, and many aspects of Gestalt process utilise body awareness, rather than just cognitive awareness. Sometimes, it is useful to focus more on the body, when someone has less words, or when they have too many words, or when their words are very contradictory, as in this case. Being still, and present with a person, their breathing, helps them become more present to themselves. Then, whatever the unfinished business is, will arise to the surface of their awareness. We don’t have to do too much questioning, or prodding. They will themselves get in touch with what is most important. Then we can focus that awareness, bring it into relationship, and support movement in the direction the person needs to go.

Posted by Steve Vinay Gunther