Erica and Paul Identifying their feelings

In marriage therapy, often each person is unknowingly “putting” on their spouse unconscious feelings they have about themselves and/or past experiences. Erica was struggling with how do I go into my body to “identify” and “locate” the feelings I am having. Paul said no way do I want to do this process. At this point in the psychotherapy, the reluctance and fear that show up is common. Often in our families growing up and in our culture to be connected with our feelings in our bodies is not encouraged and/or taught. As a result when suggesting to Erica and Paul they breathe into their own bodies and report out is met with resistance.

Resistance is a manifestation of fear of the unknown. It is often the experience of a client when I suggest “go into their bodies to locate the feeling” to pull away from therapy or “freeze” in their fear of this unknown process. Erica said to me, her psychologist and marriage therapist, I will do “it”, yet please guide me. Paul said I want to watch as you work with my wife, so I may gather more of an idea of what this looks like.

In speaking to Erica as her marriage counselor, I suggested breathing in gently, put aside the brains wanting to ask questions and/or doubt, and report to me what shows up, i.e. memories, feelings, thoughts, colors, or images. Erica said to me the back of my neck hurts and the bottom of my feet throb. I, Erica’s psychologist, asked what about the pain in your neck and feet? Is it burning, throbbing, or sharp? Erica said my feet feel like they are on fire and my neck aches as if it was hit hard with a hand. I then suggested to Erica keep reporting out to me as you go in to fire feeling in your feet and hit with a hand feeling in the back of your neck. Erica began to cry. She bent over in the chair she was sitting in and sobbed. “I do no not want to feel these feelings. I have worked so hard to not feel this and I want it to go away now.” Paul was now on the edge of his chair and wringing his hands as he witnessed his wife, Erica, crying. Paul said this so “sucks”. Is this really going to help? I answered him, as his marriage therapist, has dealing with your feelings thus far the way you have assisted you to get free?

Paul at this moment screamed out in the marriage counseling session, “I hate this. I do not want to feel and yet it has not worked to bury my feelings. I want this marriage therapy to go fast and quick. I do not like this process.” He, Paul, then fell to the floor and pounded his fists on the carpet. He was screaming I am so mad and I do not know what I am mad about. I, his marriage counselor, said to Paul at this time you do not need to know what it you are mad about. Please keep going with your feelings, for this is so positive to have your anger come up and move out of you, especially since you are in a a safe place. Paul kept pounding his fists on the carpet, yelling I am angry, and then added I am angry at you Dad for leaving every time you drank. I was left alone with my brother and I hate you for that. Yet I needed you Dad so much. Why did you leave me? Where are you now? I need a Dad.

At this moment Erica was sobbing and staring at Paul. Erica said, “Paul you have often in the middle of the night said in your sleep those very words, Dad I am so angry you left me when you drank”. Then Erica stood up and walked around the office during the marriage therapy session and cried out Dad stop touching my feet. Erica proceeded to talk about her experience of her father tickling her feet every time he went to her room at night to get into bed to rape her.

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