My therapist sent me a text message a few weeks ago on the morning of my therapy. Would I like to go for a walk with her? Instead of sitting in her office and trying to find a logical, rational solution to my problems, would I like to go for a walk around the local park? She had been trying to get me to exercise for many years and finally I was walking on my own but I’d lost some of that motivation recently and was having difficulty finding it again.
Many years ago this offer would have sent me into a transference psychosis tailspin with its endless possibilities of real love and a post-therapy relationship, but with a lot of water under the therapeutic bridge she understood me well enough to know I would now be able to make creative symbolic meaning out of it, rather than a literal one.
She was right. Ever since that walk, whenever I go for one on my own I never miss her because her spirit, the essence of who she is, is always with me.
When a client becomes attached and merges with the therapist, the same way an infant attaches to his/her mother; it becomes a question of survival for both the client and the baby. This is when the “talking cure” can become different, perhaps more like a regular conversation because what is sorely longed for is less CBT and more authentic mother-love bonding in the shape of that “look,” that “touch,” that special communication from mother/therapist to baby/client that makes the heart glow and grow and makes each others brain cells explode with affection and love.
That “look” called facial mirroring between an infant and its mother is exceptionally crucial to physical, social, mental, biological and emotional growth and survival. It’s where the mother/therapist intuitively responds in an active manner to the many vagaries of the baby/client’s changing face, moods, humour, internal states, disposition and temperament.
It’s a twinning experience in the same manner as sitting with your pre-school aged daughter making Christmas crackers out of toilet rolls and tissue paper, or a father building an airplane with his five year old son, or a parent and their teenage offspring cooking a meal together.
It is mutual love of epic proportions and has more effect on the brain than any amount of math and science can produce. That mirroring, that twinning, that brain-sharing, that synchronous glue between parents and children sometimes doesn’t happen, in fact the opposite does and it is this that can lead the adult client into long-term therapy looking for something they can’t quite identify because they didn’t even know it was missing.
I feel some clients with mother issues (and father ones) could benefit greatly just by sitting NEXT to the therapist, on the same couch and knitting a scarf together, not necessarily speaking words to each other, because this twinning mutuality can be a preverbal state where the loving/kindness, mother-love or father-love is felt and experienced holistically rather than merely spoken about, or it can evoke a gentle conversation that resonates deeply within and mends old wounds.
It could be knitting or crocheting or hand sewing a therapy quilt together for the client to take home. It’s the unique experience of being physically, mentally and emotionally in tune together, forging that “love affair,” both working together in harmony each on a separate part to create the whole, the synergy. Or you could both just be sitting next to each other on the same couch working peacefully on a crossword puzzle. This is where you can sometimes find the answer to a question you never knew existed.
It doesn’t matter what the activity is as long as you both are in that healing, rapturous head zone, where you become the yin and yang of each other for the therapy hour. It is part of the process of bonding in the very ordinary, even dullish moments of life, the companion love that most of us spend our lives searching for and sometimes never finding. Really does therapy have to be so complicated and technical and need a Ph D when all that has to happen for some is the warm feelings of being cherished, protected, nurtured and loved?
This type of therapy might not fit neatly into Marsha Linehan’s Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and it’s not quite something insurance would be likely to pay out on as well, seeing as sewing a therapy quilt might not be seen as a genuine modality. But how many of you out there would like to have that calm, secure, serene and tranquil twinning experience you’ve never had before, with someone you consider a mother/father-substitute? Someone you constantly think about all day, every day, whose presence haunts your dreams and is the stuff of all the poetry and stories that you write but never send.
I know. I’ve thought the thoughts and had the dreams (and sent her the really bad poetry) and on that one occasion when we left her office and walked to the local park, it was a most unusual, uplifting gift of a mutually shared experience of mirroring, of twinning, of brain growth and synchronicity that gets me out of my chair of depression five times a week and into the sunshine or rain, walking the dog around the magnificent lake at the bottom of my garden. The creative and lasting long-terms benefits experienced outweighed the actual event by a mega amount. It’s the little meaningful incidents that are so personally relevant and can sometimes stop the torture of endless and relentless seeking from this unidentifiable and unknowable quest for self-knowledge and closure.
Such as the small gesture of recognition my therapist gave me when I was in transference hell because she went on holiday recently. At the end of the session, she put her hand on my back for warmth, comfort and reassurance and when I got home she had emailed me to let me know that her hand on my back was to also remind me that she was here and she will return.
Attachment therapy is what a small percentage of clients crave from their therapists. It is the clever, wise, astute and intuitively creative therapist who can make it happen. It’s something to draw on when your therapist goes on holiday or between sessions. It can compress therapy sometimes by years. Reliving that walk over and over again is a wonderful pleasurable memory that takes away the hurt and pain and makes me feel as though I am important and that I matter.
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From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (August 15, 2010)
Last reviewed: 14 Aug 2010