Falling asleep is a wonderful way to avoid yourself isn't it?
As craniosacral practitioners or perhaps as therapists of any kind (or maybe just as people that work with people every day!) there's certain things we think but never say. Right? There's certain things we see and feel that we immediately just know is better kept inside.
But my question is, how do we know?
Well, maybe we feel it. Maybe it's too outrageous to actually say out loud. Maybe it's downright hurtful or judgemental. Maybe we are so impeccably attuned to our client's needs that we just know what we can and can't say to facilitate their highest good.
And so we learn. We learn patterns and frameworks internally without realising we are learning what is in some ways, a sophisticated practice of self censorship. We learn how to calibrate our internal voice in order to present ourselves to our clients in a way that we feel is in their best interest. But how do we actually know that it is?
We learn patterns and frameworks internally without realising we are learning what is in some ways, a sophisticated practice of self censorship.
We don't. We don't know anything. We are just employing our inner compass. And people use a compasses when they don't want to get lost. When they want to navigate. So we use our inner compass to navigate ourselves and the unfolding client relationship. That's fair right? Of course, I hear you say. Otherwise there would be CHAOS! And that would be DANGEROUS.
So here we are holding danger and chaos in one hand and sensitive navigation in the other. And within those two extremes we are making a choice. More often than not, we choose not to be lost with our clients, we choose to navigate and to know. What opens then is a field of knowing yet we are at the same time, expecting our client to explore their unknown with us. We have a well calibrated and sophisticated inner compass whilst the client sits in front of us feeling like their equipment consists of a broken torch, a frozen google map and soggy walking boots.
We have a well calibrated and sophisticated inner compass whilst the client sits in front of us feeling like their equipment consists of a broken torch, a frozen google map and soggy walking boots.
Doesn't feel like such an even playing field. So what do we do? Answer all together now: We help them find their inner compass! That's an easy answer though. That's what you'll find written on most counselor and therapist website before you've even met them. 'Perhaps you're struggling with [insert crisis event] right now, if so, therapy could be helpful'
Everyone wants a compass when they're lost. It's logical and it's responsible to help them find one. What are we doing differently though? Not everybody (perhaps nobody really) wants to sit in a shit storm of internal chaos. Because it feels, well, like a shit storm. But I wonder (outloud, perhaps irresponsibly, but who really cares or reads these posts anyway hopefully not the CSTA oopsie) if actually there is something that happens when we join our client in the storm. When we stand in the tornado with them as hail batters down on our faces and we can't for the life of us, see a single thing. I wonder if rather than helping clients to search their backpacks and pockets and black-hole-tote bags for their internal compass, we could just turn around and say 'Well, it's very windy here and this shit stinks!'
I wonder if rather than helping clients to search their backpacks and pockets and black-hole-tote bags for their internal compass, we could just turn around and say 'Well, it's very windy here and this shit stinks!'
Would that make us unethical? Would it trigger our inner criminal? Or could it be something that makes something possible. What's that something? I have absolutely no idea. Nor do I advocate this approach with clients. Nor would I necessarily repeat anything i've said below ever again. But something happened. Inside the something there was...something. A feeling. A realness. An unspeakable shifting of ground.
So here's my blog series of 10 things that I've said to a client that I probably shouldn't have, and what happened after. Each client example gets its own blog post.
'Falling asleep in every single session is a wonderful way to avoid yourself isn't it?'
What happened: Client falls asleep 10 minutes into the session, every session for about six sessions in a row.
What I probably should have said: I'm wondering if there's aspects of this that you might be finding it difficult or uncomfortable to stay awake?
What I actually said: '
'Where are you?'
'Are you there?'
'....yes....I was just asleep'
'It's very interesting how this happens isn't it'
'How what happens?'
'How you fall asleep in our sessions'
'It's sooo relaxing...'
'I'm glad you feel relaxed. What else are you feeling?'
'I just feel relaxed'
'What does feeling relaxed allow you to avoid having to feel?'
'Errr....I guess it means I don't have to feel the stuff I don't want to feel'
'Falling asleep every session is a wonderful way to avoid yourself isn't it?'
'Well, yes, it works...'
'It does work. It works so well that you don't have to. So if you're not here working on yourself why are you here?'
'I just let you do your thing I'm happy to be asleep'
'And I'm asking for your participation. Do you want to participate?'
'I guess so, I don't really know what to do'
'That's because you're asleep.'
'So what do I do?'
'First start by trying to stay awake and let's see how things go'
'Ok i'll try to stay awake'
What happened: The client would fall asleep after just 10 minutes into every session and would have no recollection of anything that had happened during the session. There was also a distinct lack of curiosity or reflective capacity on waking up. In the meantime the emotional turbines were actively moving through him but were not being allowed to be processed by his body. By staying asleep he was keeping himself in the same realm of awareness. Avoidance was the elephant in the room in our sessions and the elephant in his life, which was finally addressed by just putting it out there in the field. This meant we were able to incorporate the avoidance into the session, and other events that had led to an avoidant tendency or behaviour.
What the outcome was: He started to stay awake for longer periods of time during our sessions, and was actually able to describe with impressive detail what was happening in his body and how everything was connected. He started to understand that various conflicts in were not going to disappear if he fell asleep and ignored them. Discourse became more genuine over the next few sessions and there was a more authentic sense of personal disclosure. We would sometimes allude to the falling asleep and he would joke with me that he was going to, and yet in the sessions thereafter he remained awake. His body began to accelerate it's healing because it was getting his attention and recognition even if it was just once a week. His body began to enter the long tide more often and he began to become even more aware of his inherent healing power. It became something to watch and participate in rather than avoid, because it was so incredible.