Jagged edges of pain were audible and palpable in Kris’ voice when he initially called. “I need therapy. But . . . I can’t come now . . . I’m . . . in a hospital. I’d like to call you again . . . when I’m out.” I met Kris two months later after his discharge from a local psychiatric program. No longer at risk for self-harm, Kris was a tall, attractive man in his late thirties with a story of misery. Kris talked about childhood bullying and his recent marital demise that had caused him financial and emotional devastation. Yet, regardless of these past and current traumas, Kris possessed strengths.
“Ahhhgh!” Lance moaned as he slouched stiffly on the couch on an airy summer day.
He stretched his legs past the edge of the table, rubbed his right thigh. Lance groaned. “I’m a mess. The two little ones were crawling all over me this morning, bumping every inch of me that’s bruised. I had to get up and get all of them breakfast, but my body hurt so bad I wasn’t sure I could even move.”
A married father of three and a martial artist in his mid-thirties, Lance is tall, tan and robust looking, an appearance that belies his current physical discomfort.
“What’s happened to make you so sore, Lance?”
“My physical therapist says its bursitis in my muscles. It’s because of my damn job.” Lance, advertises his frustration with a loud, drawn out ‘jawwwb.’ “They have me blasting in a tube again! No PT is going to help me when I’m getting bashed all the time!”
Lance’s well-paying job is rather unusual. Working for a company whose contracted venues mandate sandblasting and painting in spaces where he barely fits, Lance must use Superman strength, Ironman agility and Spiderman courage to keep from being crushed against the walls and wounded by the heavy equipment he carries. Although Lance credits martial arts training for giving him the flexibility to perform this work, invariably he ends up moving around in awkward and uncomfortable positions and coming out hurt.
Vacillating between emotional pain and the somatic relief of psychic numbing, Marie came to my office bewildered and in shock. Two weeks earlier a truck had crashed into a car in which Marie’s mother was riding. Although the truck driver had survived, Marie’s mother and her partner had instantly died.
“I don’t know how you can help,” Marie said, her tired eyes revealing her grief. “You can’t bring my mother back or help me make sense of my loss. I’ve always had faith in a divine spirit, in an afterlife, but now nothing seems right.”
Given the traumatic impact of Marie’s loss, how could I help?
“These are difficult times.” One member noted during my mid-November stress management group. “Everyone is angry. People who used to be friends are not speaking. It’s giving me stomach aches.”
“I know!” Her couch mate said with sadness in her voice. “There are too many changes. I’m having migraines.”
Group members discussed their usual stressors—interpersonal conflicts, worries about children and grandchildren, work stress, a few health concerns—but on that fall morning I sensed a difference in their presence and in each person’s felt sense of his/her stress.
“Maybe it would help to talk about it,” said a group member settled in the rocking chair. “In times like these we all need support.”
What might happen if you envisioned a second version of yourself, a personal avatar that embodied knowledge for attaining your goals, for guiding your life or for improving your tennis game?
When I’m entrained with my clients in mutual readiness, I become aware of my own inner sensations and how they allow me to “listen” with my ears, my eyes, and my intuition, with my fullest self. Working from a state of readiness enables me to catch fertile moments of therapeutic potential