I recently listened to an interview with best-selling author, Matt Kahn, and I feel his message is the perfect follow up to the map I provided in my previous blog post (about the depth perspective on the Sleeping Beauty story, and how it relates to my work and choice of practice name).
In that previous post, I had provided a sort of map for the way I work, as it relates to the old fairy tale, and also as it relates to the mandalas from which Carl Jung drew inspiration in The Red Book, as pictures of psychic wholeness. I drew the imaginary tower of Sleeping Beauty from above, with our very own Briar Rose sleeping in the center of a round tower, complete with all the thorns and bramble surrounding the tower, as detailed in the original tale.
It occurred to me in the aftermath that it was very important to me to include that I do not view these obstructive factors (I suppose you could call them) in a negative light. In my clinical work, I take the “Whatever Arises, Love That” approach. When we come in for therapy, those thorns and bramble are often what we are in the thick of, or some hint of them (to which we’ve developed huge resistance, because we just don’t want to go there). Rather than viewing this as the enemy, or something to “fight,” I take an incredibly gentle, and yes, even loving, approach to what is arising. I approach what is arising as if I am approaching a wounded child because, very often, this is exactly what we, together, are approaching. If you approached a wounded child with the attitude that you need to fix it, or fight it, or make it go away, it’s not going to want to have a conversation with you about what is really going on. If you approach a wounded child incredibly lovingly, and gently, it might feel safe and accepted enough to come into the room to be held (figuratively) for a little while until it can talk about the hurt, or the fear, or both.
Often, people approach their healing believing that some part of them is broken and needs to be fixed. If we view this part as a split off inner child, and try to empathize with that wounded child, how would you feel if I told you we needed to “fix” you? It might sort of hurt your feelings, right? It would probably make you feel more like having a conversation with me if I expressed deep, genuine concern about the hurt and the need for safety, and deep, genuine curiosity about what you have to say. This is how I view whatever seems to be getting in the way of peace, freedom, fulfillment and self-compassion in my clients.
If the very first thing we come up against is resistance, then we love that. Yes, we love the resistance. We listen to what it has to say. This may seem insensitive or difficult to fathom if what is coming up or what is most immediately obvious is deep pain. Why should we love deep pain? We are not loving the fact that there is deep pain, because no one deserves to be in deep pain, but we are loving the part of you that is expressing the deep pain.
This is a skill I hope to continue to develop, as even mentioning self-love or self-compassion when someone is not in a place to really resonate with that or hear it can deepen a shame-split already present in the psyche. It can be received as, “What you should be doing is loving yourself, and that’s clearly not what you’re doing, so let me tell you how you should be.” It requires deep attunement to sense what is needed in the moment, and I hope to continue to get better and better at this throughout my career.
Photo by Fernando Arias