There’s a subtle or not so subtle expectation of what is supposed to be happening this time of year: images of a loving family gathered around a tree or fireplace, expensive presents, lots of food to eat, the image of love and connection through the generations as people smile at each other. Whether on TV or a holiday card or images on the internet, there is a warm feeling of connection to these images. Whatever each family tradition or circumstance, if there is difference, sometimes even there is shame. And there can be shame between our imagined family on TV or little house on the prairie memories and the remembered unavoidable misattunements, and even horrors in some families, of what showed up growing up.
How do you deal with profound disappointment? With things not going the way you wanted—or expected?
How do you deal with disruption/change/shock/disorientation/feeling like the bottom just fell out and you don’t know which end is up? Several clients have spoken lately of feeling confounded: “…Like being in the middle of deep water, so I can’t touch down anywhere, and I don’t know which way land is. There’s nothing to hold onto. I’m disoriented and don’t know what to do— but I can’t stay where I am and have to do something.”
We are living in interesting times. Recently we had an election that is likely to be affecting all of us in a big way.
Once I was working with a woman who was feeling very lost in her life. She wasn’t sure if she even wanted to start a new job or a new relationship. I asked her what her picture was when she imagined getting a new job, and all she could picture was what happened in her last job: her co-worker and even her supervisor putting her down. I asked her what picture she imagined when she thought about a new relationship and she couldn’t even imagine that; she just kept saying over and over, “The last one wasn’t very good, so there must be something wrong with me.”
Often I notice that in the back and forth of the day to day, we can lose ourselves in one thing after another. Sometimes when we can put a name on to something that’s happening and pause, it can allow us to stop and be in the moment in a more embodied way.
Let me give you a few examples. A couple from my practice told me how one day in the middle of their usual argument about who was going to pick up their daughter, who was going to buy the groceries, etc., instead of escalating the argument, the fellow said to his wife, “I want to thank you for choosing me so long ago.”
I had a client a few years ago who called me very upset because his wife had thrown his cell phone out the window.
You might be surprised, but attachment injuries can be caused by an electronic device!
Nowadays, many kids as well as adults are texting or even talking on their cell phones during dinner, if they even eat dinner together. Often spouses are texting or talking on their phones while they’re trying to have a conversation with each other. There is something almost unnoticed that can happen when one person turns away from their partner or child—and toward the electronic device.
It was a crisis. One of my clients was extremely upset. Susan was getting married soon and her fiancé had just informed her that he did not want to wear a wedding ring. “It’s so important to me. A wedding ring is the way that you announce to the world that you are married. I’ve been looking forward to wearing a ring for years. I don’t plan to take it off. What could it mean that he doesn’t want to wear one?”