“But I like living in two rooms!” says the patient adamantly.
“Okay,” I say. Sometimes keeping my sadness to myself and sometimes not. But despite my feelings, like in any other business, the customer is always right. The patient directs the show, not me. After all, it is their life.
Thus, the hardest part of being a psychotherapist is letting go of outcome. The best part of my job is being a real estate agent. Yes, I get to show the patient the grand home that he or she is living in but refuses to occupy. They have enclosed themselves in two small rooms of their personal mansion, choosing to live their life in a safe, limited space. So, I’m the trusted, privileged tour guide. I get to lead the noble seduction into all the rooms, spaces and places that he or she has closed off over the years. The basement with its musky tools and unopened boxes, the attic with its generational treasures, the hall closet with its multiple I-don’t-know-where-else-to-put-it things. The many rooms of entertainment, love-making, intellectual curiosity and artistic creativity. Shit, if you got a mansion, I say, move in its entirety. It’s yours to enjoy.
Yet, I get it is scary. Reducing our emotional space to what we can control (or try to control) feels essential, as if we are fighting for survival. And yet the opportunity cost is so expensive. Not only are we wasting our million-dollar property, but eventually, we whittle ourselves down to nothing. All in the name of protection.
So, remove the ropes from the dining room door. Take off the plastic sheets from the living room furniture. Dare to face the ghosts of your haunted attic. For, life is to be lived. Mansions are to be occupied. Your soul to go around once. And I want that invitation for dinner.
“How do I look, mama?” Bright eyes face upward, hoping that validation will come. After all, many a little girl wants to look fabulous in her mother’s three-inch stilettos. Because mama sure does.
However, even if the mother is wise enough to offer a generous-good-parent fabrication, we all know that the shoes don’t fit. Barely walking toddlers are not meant to don shoes that are too tall and too big. The small feet don’t match the oversized shoes – at least, not yet.
Sounds like psychotherapy. Every patient comes in the door looking for a shoe or foot adjustment – of one kind of another. Depth psychotherapy’s first task is to grow feet – we develop a patient’s internal world. Once that process is well under way, then we assist the patient in finding his or her place in the larger world. A good fitting pair of shoes to carry a newly signatured soul as it journeys through life. A place for the now enlivened person to shine his/her best self.
There are patients who have been told they must wear a certain kind of shoes – the wrong shoes – ones that aren’t their particular style. A shoe closet overhaul is necessary.
There are those walking around in high-end, luxury shoes yet they don’t have the feet to wear them mightily. We need to grow their feet – their insides to match the outsides -as to authentically own their talented self. No more head down while wearing those Jimmy Choos.
There are those with feet too big for their outworn shoes. Their toes are sticking out the front. Blisters are forming on the back heel. We must shop for new shoes that can house their expanding foot.
And there are those that need the full-service reconstruction. They come with small, stunted feet and have no clue that shoes are an essential part of one’s attire. First, we spring forth feet. Then, as their core becomes solid and grounded, the fun begins. Shoe shopping! Where will he or she invest this new-found person of boundless energy and creativity in the world at large?
Our psychological goal is big feet with big shoes. As much as we can tolerate until we can tolerate more. Our insides matching our outsides. It matters not whether we trod through life in flip flops, running shoes, high heels or cowboy boots. It only matters that we continue to grow into the best version of our self while discovering the finest fit for the offering of our unique footprint.