Patricia was a 28-year-old single mother of two planning adoption for her unborn child, a son she said was conceived as the result of a date rape. After contacting an adoption agency and completing an intake interview with a social worker, she was referred to an independent counselor for pre-placement counseling. Her counselor, Liz, specialized in treating clients with grief and childbearing loss issues including problems or challenges presented by adoption.As Liz waited for Patricia to arrive for their afternoon meeting, she reviewed the file that had been given her by the adoption agency social worker, Jeanette Sizemore. Jeanette had taken detailed notes, describing the neat double-wide trailer Patricia and her daughters occupied, and including two Polaroid photos she had taken during her intake interview at Patricia’s home. The first photo was of Patricia, standing in her kitchen behind a Formica-clad island. She was an attractive brunette with a determined set to her jaw.
The second photo was of Patricia and her two daughters, cute little girls with dark brown hair like their mother’s. The girls looked to be around four and two years old. Liz shuffled through Jeanette’s paperwork, searching for the girls’ ages and names, and found that the older girl was almost five years old, and the younger almost three. Oddly, Jeanette had not written the girls’ names in the social history, but had used the initials “B” and “M” for their names. “Interesting,” Liz thought, “that she’d use only initials and that they happened to be ‘BM.'”
Liz idly wondered if there was any meaning to Jeanette’s method of notation, or if it was a social work or adoption practice convention to identify children merely by their initials. Or perhaps she had her own association to adoption as excrement, something she would have to consider later as she did her own inner work. Liz opened her personal journal and made a note reminding herself to ask Jeanette about the use of initials in her report, and whether this was standard practice for the adoption agency. She also placed an association exercise on her to-do list; she would need to discover what personal associations she had to adoption and to other elements of Patricia’s file.
“A good analytical psychologist is regularly checking the rearview mirror,” she reminded herself, then smiled wryly over her choice of the word “rearview.”
That’s two base chakra associations in as many thoughts, she told herself. You’d better go ahead and call your own analyst and keep yourself an honest woman.
client and counselor meet
The chime on Liz’s telephone rang once, notifying her that her client had arrived. Liz stood and took a reflective breath before opening her door to greet Patricia. As Liz entered the waiting room, Patricia stood awkwardly and gave her a tentative smile. They introduced themselves and entered the office, with Patricia choosing a chair directly opposite Liz’s desk, placing the desk as a barrier between them rather than choosing the sofa or a chair in the less formal sitting area of the office. Liz made mental note of Patricia’s choice and recalled that she had been standing behind a counter in the Polaroid photo the social worker had taken. Liz wondered if her new client had a pattern of placing barriers between herself and other women. Other women were likely to carry her feminine archetype projections and symbolize or carry Patricia’s complexes–her emotional knots. Liz wondered what she symbolized to Patricia, and looked forward to finding out.
After giving Patricia a few minutes to get settled and acclimate herself to this new environment, Liz began to orient Patricia to herself as a counselor. Although Liz had a decidedly Jungian bent, her training and education had been boilerplate Marriage, Child, and Family Therapist fare. Any training in depth psychology, she’d had to receive on her own–and she had. After thanking Patricia for coming, she explained her views and asked Patricia about her expectations and hopes.
“I’m here because the social worker said it was part of the agency’s services, and because I’ve been thinking having some therapy would be good for me. But I’m very sure about my decision about giving up the baby, so I don’t want to get into anything like you trying to talk me out of it. I have my hands full with the girls as it is.” Patricia sat back in her chair and crossed her arms as if defying Liz to disagree.
Liz nodded sympathetically and told Patricia that her only aim was to support Patricia in her path. “If we were in high school,” Liz explained, “you would be the football team and I’d be the pep club, supporting you as you get through this season.”
Patricia grinned. “That’s funny,” she said, “because I was pep club president in high school, until things at home got so bad that I had to quit. Now the tables are turned and I get a chance to be supported.” The two shared a smile and Liz knew things were off to a good start; Liz had intuitively chosen a metaphor that was meaningful to Patricia. “Thank you,” Liz prayed, returning Patricia’s smile.
“You mentioned your daughters, Patricia,” Liz began, “so tell me about them and about what your life is like at the moment.”
“Oh, they’re great!” Patricia exclaimed. “I couldn’t ask for better kids, but being on my own makes it hard, naturally. I don’t think with only us three girls together now that bringing a boy into the mix, with all the drama of his background, would be a good idea. I already spent my childhood protecting my little brother from a drunk and I just need to get as far away from my past as possible. I want this baby boy to have a chance that he won’t get with me.”
Liz nodded sympathetically and was about to ask what Patricia believed she had done to get away from her background when she realized she didn’t know the girls’ names. “I notice that Ms. Sizemore only included your daughters’ initials in her notes. What are the girls’ names?”
“Brandy and Margarita,” Patricia answered proudly as she fished her billfold out of her purse and showed Liz a couple of wallet photos of the girls. Liz smoothly covered her surprise upon hearing the girls’ names–both the names of alcoholic drinks–as she admired the photos Patricia offered. “Oh, they’re beautiful!” Liz commented, “Do their names have any special meaning to you?”
“Not really,” Patricia replied, “I just liked that old song ‘Brandy’ because my mom used to sing it all the time. And I think Margarita is a Spanish form of Mary, and around the time she was born I used to always buy those Virgin Mary candles at the grocery store, and light them and think good thoughts about being a mom. . . even though I’m not Catholic!”
Liz nodded supportively as Patricia spoke, noticing her own inner amazement over Patricia’s oblivion to the legacy she had given her daughters. The daughter of a violent drunk whose entire aim was to escape her past and not repeat it with her own children had in fact named her children with names of alcoholic origin. That she was unconscious to this indicated that she was probably habitually inviting and encountering her father’s energy and legacy into her life.
“Truth really is stranger than fiction,” Liz said to herself. “I couldn’t make this stuff up.” She would ask Patricia about the connection with alcohol at a later session, after they had established better rapport. Liz nodded attentively at Patricia as she explained her relationship to Brandy and Margarita’s father. The 45 minutes seemed to fly by, and at the session’s end it was clear that the two had hit it off.
Patricia was articulate, warm, determined, and smart. She was also apparently unconscious to some of her major motivations. Liz was looking forward to working with Patricia and hopefully witnessing her awakening. “Let it be so,” she prayed inwardly as she arranged for their next session.
This entry is 8th my series on Leave-Taking: