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.

 

When Someone Is Afraid Of You, You Don’t Have To Be Afraid Of Them. Just Be.

Self-Care Tip #131 – When someone transfers negativity on you, just be.  Be a friend to yourself.

Reading up on the woe’s of Harry Potter, Sam did not let his children near those books.  He’d read “what they say” which shows that when kids read books like Harry Potter, it was the same as inviting the devil into their minds.  “Kids can’t tell the difference between fantasy and truth,” he said.

Sam had a friend.  A best friend named Matthew.  Sam was very afraid for Matthew who didn’t guard against this kind of attack.  Sam said, “Did you know…?”

What was Matthew’s response?

There are 2 terms we’ve used in psychotherapy since before Freud and Jung were around –

  • transference – putting our feelings on the therapist.  For example, say my therapist is a man who looks like my father.  I will transfer on him my feelings about my father and subconsciously think my therapist is like my father.
  • countertransference is the opposite.  The therapist thrusts her own memories and associations on her patient.

These can be positive or negative.  Of course they don’t stay on the couch.  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 fantasy’s long enough to make them true.

In Sam and Matthew’s case, Sam was transferring his fears of immorality on Matthew.  But what was Matthew’s reaction?  What was Matthew’s 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.  When people are afraid of us, we don’t have to be afraid of them.  We don’t have to despise them.  We don’t have to be angry, irritated, or feel “soiled.”   We can just be with them.  Let it be about them and not run away.  Just be present.

Matthew, wonderful best friend Matthew had heard this song from Sam before.  When Sam started in on it again this time, Matthew was able to sit back, listen to his fear rather than worry about what words shuttled it.  And Matthew was better for it.  Maybe Sam was too.  But the gift Matthew gave was first to himself.  By just being with Sam in his fear, he was able to just be with himself too.  Quite friendly.

Question:  How has transference and countertransference played out in your life?  How do you, “just be,” when you are inclined to “countertransfer” instead?  Please tell me your story.