Case #42 - Safe and Unsafe

Yasmin had recently divorced. She talked about wanting to mature and separate out more from her parents. She had a lot of emotion in her eyes, which I observed and remarked on, along with various other things about her - a colorful shawl, beads around her neck.

She said - “I feel safe with you.” I responded - "in some ways, that's a projection, because I am just me - safe in many ways, and at some point, I am likely to miss you and therefore not be so safe.” She found this hard to hear, and it reminded her of difficulties with her father, and her needing to clarify boundaries with him when she felt confused and foggy. She said she appreciated being seen by me..and it was something that she needed. She talked about her difficulty of being seen as a separate individual by her parents, and her historical difficulties with them in terms of being loved only conditionally, as a good girl. As I sat with her, I acknowledged the ways in which I could see her child self, with her needs for approval, acceptance, and care; and at the same time, her adult self, wanting and needing differentiation, being her own person, find her own ground getting clear on her boundaries.

This was profoundly moving for her, to be seen in both those places, and for those to be held at the same time. This was one of those I-thou moments. I talked about how, in this place where I felt spacious and grounded and present, I could indeed create the conditions of safety for her to be able to be both held/supported/attended to, and also released - encouraged to move into her own life, so we could meet as two equals.

This resonated at many levels with her. I spoke to her as an adult, recognizing both the boundary between us and the connectedness as two seekers. I then invited her to speak from the child place, to name what she wanted from me.

She said that what she longed for from her father was an acknowledgment that she was important to him. I said I was happy to shift into ‘father’ mode - I had grown daughters of my own...and could speak from that place to her. So I spoke ‘as’ her father, telling her how precious she was to me.

She then asked to hear that she was loved no matter what. I reiterated that, stating that although I might disagree with choices she made, or even not like aspects of her, that my fundamental ground of family relationship was the connection of love. In this way, I could respond to a profound need she had to be see in this place. In the nature of the therapeutic process, I wasn't actually her father, but the impact was almost the same.

This is a result of establishing a strong and deep relational ground in the therapeutic process, which then allows such statements to have a transformative effect. She felt more whole and able to bring together both adult and child parts of herself.

Posted by Steve Vinay Gunther