Case #19 - Attraction and boundaries

Dee was a young woman who spoke of her fear. I said, “what are you afraid of?” She said, “men.” I asked her to clarify. She explained that she wanted male attention, but she was also afraid of it.

I pointed out that, as well as therapist and teacher, I was also a man. She said, “yes, but I don't really think of you like that.”

My focus was on bringing the issue into the here and now, and into the relationship. I wanted to use myself as an instrument in the process of bringing greater awareness and developing experience of relationship.

So I replied that the fact was, I was a man, so it could be useful to notice what that was like for her.

She said it was scary. I asked why. Because I might find her attractive.

What was wrong with that?

Because I might fall in love with her, and then create a difficult situation that she didn't want.

So I invited her to voice that to me, directly: “I don't want you to fall in love with me, I am not available to you for that.”

She felt much better at declaring her boundary.

I then showed up with my experience. I said, “I don't want to fall in love with you either. I do find you attractive, and that fact can exist within your boundaries, and within mine.” We then had a conversation where I made some statements about how it was for me to find her attractive, and how that was for her. She was at the edge of her issue - wanting attention, but fearful of it.

So by exploring it in a safe way, she could have the experience of being ok, of being able to determine her boundaries and express them, and of dealing with attraction without it becoming too much.

She felt embarrassed at several points in this discussion, and so I shifted the focus back to myself, and my experience. I shared that I didn't find the whole thing very easy either - it’s something I wanted to push out of my awareness at times. So it was good to be able to name it with each other, and simply experience the connection of that in the present moment, without fears of it spinning out of control.

This was a new experience for her in a number of ways, and gave her the confidence that she could set boundaries, talk about the subject, and be aware of what we could call the erotic aspect of relationship, without that becoming problematic.

Gestalt emphasises authenticity, and that is used in the process to heighten awareness and bring that into relationship

Posted by Steve Vinay Gunther