350. Wizardry

funny drunk people, dumpaday (37)Here we are, just you and me, blog drunks. Truly, though this same message is out there for anyone to read, it’s just the two of us at the space bar now, Joe. The lights are low. Pandora plays the old classics softly behind the screen.  “Bartender, set up another post for me and my friend. Make mine a double.”

Why do you come back?  I ask you, why? Surely there are better things to do with your time than hang out with an old rambling dude self-named for a Mexican lunch special.  If I were you, I would not hang out with me. Can’t stay away, huh? Have you no self respect? The guy behind the cyber screen is troubled. Remember the Wizard of Oz? He was just a lost illusionist. He was the same guy in the carnival wagon in Kansas before the tornado hit. You knew that, right?  A good man but a bad wizard. I’ll appropriate that description. I’m a bad, bad wizard, Joe.

If Harry Potter called me out to a wizard magic dust off, I’d lose. Snap!  No question. But if that little jerk knows what’s good for him, he won’t or I’ll skewer him syllabically. Oh, but misery loves company, eh my drunken friend. What’s that? I’m miserable? No, I was sitting here with you, dude, nursing your pouty pout. You came to me. I did not come to you. Oh yeah. You logged in to my synapses not vice versa.

This muddling reminds me of a lady who came to see me because her coworkers told her I could help her. She had a short fuse; hated people; broke into panic without any warning; and was generally an endearing but totally frustrating smartass. From the first session she let me know that she did not like me and that I sucked.

“Is that all you can say, ‘How do you feel about that?’ C’mon. That’s pretty lame.”

“Yeah,  so it seems. You are really angry.”

“Oh, ya think?!! Nice, blame me because you can. And I’m paying you for this. Thanks.”

“Wait a second. You called me, remember? I didn’t call you and plant issues in your brain.”

“I just called to get my coworkers off my back. They told me how wonderful you were. Wrong.”

Laughing, “Definitely wrong. I suck.”

“Okay, laugh it up, you smug bastard.”

“I can’t help it. You keep  punching at who you think I am. I am amazed at the difference between your image of me and who I think I am.”

“Oh, sure. I know how therapy works: you get me to believe I have deep problems that need sixty sessions to fix, and then I have to come back week after week. Meanwhile you can’t see me cuz you’re on a cruise in the Mediterranean.”

“Actually it’s up to you to reschedule, which I’m thinking you’re not going to do. And I cruise the Caribbean.”

With utter contempt, “You’d like that, wouldn’t you? If I never rescheduled. But I’m not gonna give you the satisfaction.”

“So what do you want to do?”

“I don’t want to, but I’ll be back in two weeks, same time, same day. You’re not getting rid of me that easy.”

“I’m not trying to get rid of you.”

And so it went. Tina would crack a bit and then defend the crack.

“Damn you! I told you stuff last week that I should never have shared. I haven’t told anyone that crap in 40 years. And now you have the control. I hate you.”

“You know as well as I do that I can’t do anything with your confidential information. It is toxic, for sure. How about leaving it here with me. Think of me as a toxic waste dump.”

Laughing, “That won’t be too hard.”

Laughing back, “I gave you a beach ball to hit. I thought you would.”

“See, there you go again being the smartest guy in the room.”

“Uh, unless you have a gender swap secret, I am the only guy in the room.”

Guffawing, “Okay, no. I mean I am not a dude, which leaves you. God, I don’t know how your wife puts up with you.”

“I don’t either. She is a saint.”

“Don’t agree with me when I slam you. That takes all the fun out of it.”

“I’m just rollin’ with the punches.”

Slowly this very angry oyster opened and flushed out her septic secrets. One day she told me she was pissed off at me.

“Well, that’s not news. You’ve been busting my butt since we met.”

“You took away my sarcasm. I used to be really good at it, but I can’t pull it off anymore since you told me it was passive aggressive back biting anger. God! You take all the fun out of life.”

“I am a party pooper, loser, pathetic guy in a sweater.”

“That’s all true, but… uh, I’m only gonna say this once… (sotto voce) you are good at this.”

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you.”

“I’m not gonna say it again.”

“I thought I heard you say I was good at this. Is that right?”

“Yes, smartass.”

“I prefer intelligent donkey.”

“You would”, chuckling.

We worked faithfully and Tina got better. The super-guarded angry woman began taking risks, telling folks no, and making herself vulnerable. She revisited old guilt inducing memories and reconfigured responsibilities. Some bad folks had hurt her and convinced her adolescent self that it was her fault, always her fault.

Somewhere along the therapy journey she found herself, the part she loved and did not blame. That was a glorious day. Eventually this dark, angry female funnel cloud came in smiling and weeping tears of joy.

“I can’t believe how happy I am. I never would have believed it was possible. I pushed back the curtains at home. I don’t care if some pervert looks in my house. No one is going to steal my joy again.”

“That’s awesome. I am very happy for you.”

Then in her inimitable fork tongued way, “You really are good at this, but I’m still praying for your poor wife. I don’t know how she puts up with you.”

“I don’t either.”

Image result for woman walking into the sunset picture

 

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348. Broken Vessel

While sitting with a client a week after her suicide attempt, I was struck by her brokenness.

A week before she had called to say she could not wait for our first session at the agency where I was working in the 90’s.  She was drunk and decided to swallow the fifty or so anti-depressants she had left in her prescription. It was an odd emergency cancellation call.

“I won’t  be able to make our schsleduled appointment cuz I’m gonna kill myschelf.”

“Okay. Could you do me a favor before you kill yourself?”

“Sschure.”

“Would you unlock your front door?”

“Okay. Anything elsssh I can do for you?”

“Nope. Just thanks for calling. That was super nice of you.”

“Oh Ssshertainly. Bye bye.”

I immediately called 911 and canceled the appointment I was in the middle of. Yeah, I had just met a lady with a circus of diagnoses in person and this craziness on the phone had exploded. “I gotta go, ma’am. It’s an emergency. I know we just met, but …”

 I met her as the medics carried her to the ambulance.  “Who the hell are you?” she slurred as we passed. I happened to look down and see her pathetic, impossibly childish, yellow suicide sticky note on the floor of her apartment building’s lobby.  It said, “My parents never loved me.”

Later at the hospital she had her stomach pumped and some crisis counseling. “I’m the guy on the phone. I’d still like to meet with you after your get out of here. Is that okay?”

As I listened during our first scheduled session, I visualized her as a ceramic vessel that had been shattered long ago.  I felt like I was figuratively “picking up the pieces”, as if I were a psychological archeologist.  I recalled the satisfactions I had derived from rebuilding broken furniture, kids’ toys, my old cars, etc.  I also sensed a fertile symbol here and a very powerful emotional image to manipulate.  I floated the broken vessel image with “Sherry”.  She accepted it as accurate.

“Yeah, my life is a shattered mess with lots of missing pieces.”

Before our next session I located a hammer and several old coffee cups, two plastic grocery bags and a tube of Elmer’s glue.  During this session I asked “Sherry” to pick a cup she most identified with.  She selected one with a floral pattern and a few minor chips.  I asked her to explain how she was like this vessel.  She mentioned its usefulness, attractiveness and sturdiness.

As the session progressed, she seemed to hold the cup with unconscious affection.

After a while I asked “Sherry” to recall the major traumas in her life.  She did so, noting that most had been abuse suffered at the hands of men in her life.  I then asked my client to wrap the cup in the plastic bags to guarantee we could retain all the pieces.  Giving her the hammer, I instructed “Sherry” to voice the three biggest hurts she had experienced as she pounded the cup in the bags.  As she did so, the force of her blows increased with each hit.  I believe she would have turned the cup to powder if I had not set limits.

My client noted an immediate emotional release; however, she appeared overwhelmed at the task ahead of her.  I asked her to open the bag and inspect the pieces.  “That looks like I feel”, she observed, “ a broken mess”.  Then I gave her the glue and asked her to rebuild the cup.   “The glue is therapy”, I observed. She quickly gave excuses why she could not comply.  I told her she might not ever want to complete the task, and that she could stop at any point in the process.

At our next session the mug was again in one piece and my client had several remarkable lessons to relate about how she rebuilt the cup.

“I started with the big pieces, then worked from the bottom to the top.  I had to wait between gluings to allow the first pieces to solidify. You can’t rush some of the mends.”

“I had to look for patterns to follow; the flower prints helped. So did the border.”

“I had to give up the notion of a perfect rebuild since some of the cup was powder now. I guess the first blow is likely gonna be a powder blast.”

“I was proud of myself.  I thought ‘if I can rebuild this shattered cup, I can do this therapy thing too.’”

“I want to keep this as a reminder of where I started. I mean, I won’t be drinking coffee out of it, but I can put flowers in it on my mantel.”

“Sherry” went on to question some old assumptions and behaviors, and worked on changing her view of herself.  Oddly enough, her suicide attempt was triggered by a promotion at work. She assumed that she would make a mess of the increased responsibilities and found out as a fraud. She had been alcoholic and self-destructive, beating life to the punch.  Ironically, or so it seems to me, the hammer of destruction had truly been in her hand over the past few years.  Visualizing this truth seemed to be the beginning of the healing process.

On other occasions I have used this technique with traumatized clients.  As far as I can tell, each application has been very satisfying and growth-enhancing for the client.  On one occasion the client chose not to hammer her marriage cup symbol.  In another case a child of abuse chose not to fully rebuild the cup she symbolized as her abuser, leaving several pieces unglued that could have easily been reintegrated. There is a certain beauty in repaired brokenness, don’t you think?

Jeremiah 30:17 says, “I will give you back your health and heal your wounds”, says the Lord. “For you are called an outcast, ‘Jerusalem for whom no one cares'”. And so it goes, back to unity and wholeness and harmony.