Presence Encourages Self-Care

The Forgetful Professor

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I am writing a series of blog-posts outlining self-care in which we examine the tenets of self-care:

Self-Care Tip – Sit back and listen to the emotion to be present in your own life.

There are two terms we’ve used in psychotherapy since before Freud and Jung were around:

  • Transference – putting our feelings on the clinician.  For example, my clinician looks like my father.  I will transfer onto him my feelings about my father and subconsciously think he is like my father.
  • Countertransference is the opposite.  The clinician thrusts her own memories and associations on her patient.

These can be positive or negative.  Of course they do not stay in the clinic.  Transference and countertransference happen between all of us all the time.  Often it is healthy.  It helps us grow, model others, fantasize and move towards fantasies long enough to make them true.

Remember PattyAnne from yesterday?  …In PattyAnne’s and my case, PattyAnne could be said to have transferred her fear of being treated as a lesser person.  But what was my reaction and what is yours in similar situations?  What is our countertransference?

I have often been guilty of negative countertransference in situations like this.  I remember feeling dirtied by people’s prejudices and fears.  Almost like I needed to bathe afterwards.  The truth is, though, we don’t have to feel this way.

When people are afraid of us, we do not have to be afraid of them.  We do not have to anger, agitate, or feel “soiled.”   We can just be with them.  Let it be about them and not run away.  Be present.

Clinicians can be open to hearing this song.  When any patient starts in again, this time, sit back and listen to her fear rather than worry about what words carried it.  Patients will be better for it.  Maybe clinicians will be, too.  And that is key.  The gift we give first is to ourselves.  By just being with someone in her fear, we can just be with ourselves too, and vice versa.  Quite friendly to us both.

Presence encourages self-care.  It helps guard us against the temptation to see ourselves as victims.  When we do not realize that our emotions and behaviors come from us, were not imposed upon us from external sources or realize more specifically the transference or countertransference that we are responsible for – we can feel like victims.

Any time we do not own our emotions and behaviors, this is a quick path to losing our connection to our personal journey and become “absent” rather than present with ourselves.

Still, many wonder: at what point does “too much self-care” become part of the symptomatology?  This concern will resolve when we see how emotions are not moral implications.  “See” you tomorrow!

Questions:  How has feeling like a victim disconnected you from others and yourself?  How have you collected your absent self and come together again?  Please tell me your story.


15 thoughts on “Presence Encourages Self-Care

  1. You always know what to say and self care is so important. I head a saying that if a air plane were to take a nose dive because of turbulence, you put on your oxygen mask first not anyone next to you including a baby…because if you are not breathing how can you help anyone else.


  2. Wow! Two new posts this morning! Good reading producing lots of thinking!!

    When I felt victimized by my pastoral counselor (about whom I’m wrote in the bullying series last week), I took those feelings and placed them smack in the middle (or all over, I guess) my spiritual life. I couldn’t read my Bible. I actually had my husband buy me a different verson so that I wouldn’t have to think of that woman every time I opened the Book. I cried every time I went to church and, to be honest, didn’t go to church much because it hurt too much. And, probably, the most painful thing was that I couldn’t interact with the people (including the ministerial staff) who had been friends or at least associates at the church. My pastoral counselor has “ruined” my spiritual life!! However, a new associate pastor at the church began asking me to join first a Sunday School class and then a study group that she was leading. I immediately said “No”, and then I tried and left in tears after a few minutes, but each time I did that, the pastor would call and encourage me again. I finally gave in, joined a Tuesday morning study group directed specifically toward wounded souls, and slowly, over literally years, I began to feel at home again in the church I had attended for thirty plus years and comfortable with the people there. Now my Bible of choice is the one I had always used and loved before and throughout my experience with the pastoral counselor. I “collected my absent self and came together again”, but not without the help of a loving and persistent minister. I guess, though, in the context of FriendtoYourself, I decided to befriend myself by joining the Tuesday morning class. I didn’t know that then. It might have been easier to start if I had. 🙂


  3. I guess becoming a friend to myself was learning not to say or think things to or about myself that I would never say to or about someone else. To be as forgiving of myself as of others.

    Truthfully this is a work in progress–but progress has been made.


  4. Thanks for the explanation. I had it wrong about the meaning of transference. I thought it meant that we transfer out ’emotional loving’ feelings onto the clinician. I have had these feelings, but more in the way that I wish they could be ‘real’ friends outside their offices. LS.


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