Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Trust you? Are you kidding???

Emily (all characters presented in this blog are fictional, yet refer to experiences I have had with others through therapeutic interactions) had come in to my office looking like the typical biker chic recovering from acid. She had her hair pulled down around her face, black eye-liner covering her eyes, and made minimal eye-contact, shifting her eyes instead around the room. Her eyes would occasionally settle on mine, staring me down to let me know that she was not scared of me. She was there because she had come to a class that I offer which talks about what it takes to create healthy boundaries, and she was intrigued. The curiosity came from learning (for the first time in her life) how to take care of her self so that she felt self-respect again. She was also curious as to whether or not I was as good at helping others as I had presented my self to be.

Every new client goes through a period of asking themselves if they can trust first the person sitting in front of them, and second whether they can learn how to trust themselves. I knew that the process started with conveying interest in what was going on with her, genuine concern for her struggles, and the communication of hope that existed and could be obtained. She did not know how she would get there, but she saw in me my confidence that it was possible and she began to consider the possibility for her self.

It was obvious that she had gone through a traumatic past, but she had to share that in time. I had to make sure she did not share too much too soon or the damage could be done again through re-traumatization. So, I asked her to start simple. Draw a house. "Tell me about the house. Is it a happy house? A sad house? Who lives there?" Draw a tree. "Tell me about your tree. What kind of tree is it? Is it by itself or in a forest? How strong is this tree?" Draw a person. "Who is the person? How do you know her/him? What is it about that person that made you draw her/him?"

We have defenses built up in our body language and in our speech with one another. But we do not have defenses built up around creating art. Art never lies. What we are dealing with comes in the moment (whether we are aware of it or not), and it comes out in what we create. Having someone create art cuts through all the walls and gets to the heart of expressing what is going on. It is one of the fastest means of uncovering what someone is unaware of (that I know).

Emily drew her house, her tree, and her person. At the end of it she looked at me and said, "I have expressed more about what is going on with me by drawing a hut, a palm tree, and a hula girl than I ever imaged! Do you think I secretly long to go to Hawaii?" I laughed at her question and she smiled. She and I both knew that she had begun to share things that were important to her, something she had not done in a very long time. She had projected a great deal on to the things she drew. And, in that process she told me a great deal about how she views her self, her life, and what might be in the way of getting better. It was the first step toward establishing a trust with someone else and the healing process that would make a huge difference in her life.
Homework: Take small steps to open your self up to what you are feeling. Find someone you trust to assist you in this process. This is a process, not a race. Allow it to unfold in it's own time. You are the one in control. Wait until you are ready, but also continue to take baby steps to your goal of self-discovery and healing. Trusting your self more and more will come as you make healthier and healthier choices, placing your self first above the needs of others. Taking care of your self, and eventually learning how to balance this with assisting others in taking care of their own needs.