Working with Sarah – Finding her NO
*all identifying features of this client have been changed to protect identity
I began working with Sarah, aged 35, when she was in between relationships. Having finished a long term marriage, she felt it was very important to understand what had happened in her life which had lead to experiencing abuse in her marriage.
When Sarah came to see me, she felt frightened and unable to talk about anything that felt personal. We spent many weeks and months talking about work, the dynamics with colleagues and her boss. It became clear through our work that Sarah was having many internal emotional responses in her life, but would appear to be completely calm on the surface. I shared an image of a duck, gliding along the surface of the water, barely causing a ripple, but with legs kicking like crazy under the surface. This resonated with Sarah.
As we began to work with metaphor, it became clear that Sarah felt quite disconnected from her internal responses. She did not feel safe to feel these feelings. Which lead to many of her boundaries being crossed, as she was not aware of her NO, with little to no awareness of it at the time. At the same time, Sarah’s unconscious felt let down by Sarah for not keeping her safe and so responded with physical pain of headaches and back pain, which had no medical resolution.
As Sarah began to feel more safe we explored her childhood and how her mother’s explosive nature has caused her to disconnect from her feelings as a way of keeping safe. Sarah began to make connections to the theme of lack of security in her life, and discovered that paradoxically she felt drawn to dangerous situations as a way of calming her nervous system. As we explored this, both through talking and through movement working with the body sensation, Sarah noticed that her physical pains shifted and her ability to meet the needs of her body by listening to what it was asking from her increased.
A key feature of our work was with Sarah’s boundaries in the sessions, which enable Sarah began to find her NO. This helped ease the need to search for dangerous situations, as well as improved her relationships with friends and colleagues, who all agreed Sarah’s new found self respect and esteem was important.
Our work reached new depths as Sarah found she able to express creatively (it was still too painful to talk about directly) the physical and sexual abuse in her marriage, and she was able to take the therapy at her own speed using her NO when needed.
Our work came to an end when Sarah felt she had taken as many steps as she could at this time, having improved her working and personal life, gained a better understanding of her childhood and its impact on her marriage. She felt ready to be open for the possibility of a new relationship, one based on respect and love, and felt confident that she was taking tools and skills with her to manage painful feelings as well as to respond to future warning signs of danger!
Our work lasted over 18 months but the improvements Sarah felt would last her for the rest of her life.