Case #72 - Pleasure leads to letting go of pain

Samantha was a successful businesswoman. But she just couldn’t seem to find a partner. She described one of the difficulties - either she worked hard on her businesses, or she worked on trying to find a partner.

She seemed distressed about this, and reported being very unhappy. Her attempts to meet men just weren't working out.

The more we talked about this, the more I could see her intense unhappiness. She looked quite miserable. I asked about this. She described a general state of unsettledness, but pinned it to not finding a partner.

A person may have a clear figure of interest - their ‘issue’. But this is not always what we work with in Gestalt. We are always more interested in process, in the HOW, rather than the WHAT. In this case, it was her tone, her mood, that I picked up on. It’s important to listen to the issue, but not get distracted by it either! Emotional state always comes first, and the content second.

So I invited her to do an experiment. I asked her to look around the room and tell me her favourite colour - green. It was a painting with a green tree.

I asked her to look at it, and put her hand on her belly, and breathe in the pleasure of looking at that colour. She variously started crying, closing her eyes. But in a strong voice I asked her to stay present, to look, breathe, and let some of the pleasure in.

In Gestalt, we attend to the experience of ‘now’ - this is part of the grounding work, as well as the direction towards discovering aliveness, which in a sense, is the goal of Gestalt. Next, I asked her to choose an object in the room. So she chose a green candle.

I asked her to do the same thing. She started pulling into herself, and again, I asked her to be present. She did so, but then she said a phrase ‘the living dead’. I asked her what she meant.

She explained that she felt guilty, that she had an abortion, and had never got over it. So, this made apparent the unfinished business, which needs to be dealt with before a person can become truly present in their life.

So I created a ritual for her - lighting the candle, and I gave her a long sentence to say to the unborn child, acknowledging it, and then letting go; then blowing out the candle. As she did this, she became steadier.

I suggested she do this ritual every day until the candle burned down. Again, I asked her to look at the green candle, with her hand on her belly, and breathe in some pleasure. She was more able to do so now.

This was important to help her stay in present time, as people, when they have a tendency to develop depression, can easily sink into it, drowning in the familiarity of their misery. One antidote is pleasure, and being able to take it in. This can strengthen, so the person can then ‘get on with their life’, whatever the content of that is.

Posted by Steve Vinay Gunther