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One Case That Gets You Stuck

Sandra was 34, had just left a bad relationship of stuckness and sadness.  Her friends had left.  Her parents were never in her corner.  We tried for one year for her to leave.  It was hardest to leave the cat.  Now alone, she had wandered into an office romance - that once-in-a-lifetime connection she had longed for. Her new partner had just done the impossible: he met another woman and fell in love.  How could the universe have delivered this unfair affair? How was the world so cruel in its choices.  Well for one thing, magical thinking does not make your future; you do.  What could I tell her?  So lost in the content of her isolation, I failed to see that she needed a hand, not a lecture. I simply said, don't you deserve to have a family and a future of your own?  Her psychic said to stick it out.  Good things come to those who wait.  (I don't mind psychics; only that they charge more than I do!).  They are in the business of hope, just as I am.

The girl started sobbing and hyperventilating.  She ended the session.

Oh boy did I blow it, I thought, as always.  The insecurity that continued throughout my life was there for the default reaction.  My fault.  My fault!  Then I overcharged her by mistake.  No worries, she said.  My full schedule made it a burden to think that this was part of the therapeutic process.  I consult an ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) professional.  She said, focus on how her fear of loneliness and lack of connection gets in the way of her getting what she really wants.  There were charts and graphs involved in what I already knew - I had struck a nerve.  

Nervous about our next session I simply said: I'm sorry.  And she forgave me.  She understood that I only wanted to protect her, but couldn't.  I get attached too.  

Attachment at the core of our capabilities.  

A beautiful girl, only stymied by her inability to go on Hinge yet again.  But those dating apps are treacherous.  Guys still want what they want.  You would think they'd have evolved by now.  Yet the men of the world are anxious, aggressive and angry, sometimes armed (and alcoholic).  The four A's I call them.  I used to like men.  They flirted in the workplace, rubbed my shoulders passing by, now all microaggressions (#metoo).  They didn't deserve me.  But it was fun.  Then I ran into a boss who wanted more, and wouldn't stop.  Losing a good chunk of my 20's with him, the married boss, I desperately wanted to spare my client the same wasteful box in the attachment matrix.  But her journey is not mine.  I am happily married 30 years now, with two beyond beautiful children without whom I couldn't imagine life.  I live in my client's fantasy; of wanting things to work out/even out/be fair despite being treated badly.   

But her boss and mine, all those years ago, would prevent our own happiness for theirs.  Is that love?  No, my friends, it's transference and magical thinking.  I am projecting my experience on to her regressed teen girl dreams of a white picket fence, two kids and yes, a cat.  But no life is without pain and suffering.  And nothing shows up until it teaches us what we need to learn (Pema Chodron).  So what is it that we both need to learn?  That we are enough, we are worthy of love and commitment and so much more.  I didn't get everything I wanted.  Does anyone?  My fancy friends seem to have second homes and vacations and security that they inherited or married or figured out.  But it's not about fancy.  Life is struggle for all of us - it comes at a price.  The price is sorrow, and then rising from the ashes.  Like a phoenix, we carry on. For my parents' legacy, I march forward toward older age and wisdom.  Nothing is going to get fixed with a diagram or a grid. More like grit.  So I tell Sandra patiently, stay with the feelings.  They will soon pass away into dust.


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