Patricia: Part 6

Liz thoughtfully sipped her tea and thought about the progress her client, Patricia, had made over the past few months. Before getting to know Patricia, she would probably never have believed that she would find in her such a willing and able client. Patricia’s gutsiness and her agile mind combined to make her very determined, indeed. Still, several of her characteristics as a client were troubling, and tempered Liz’s admiration for Patricia with a more sober underlying assessment.

Patricia was as avoidant as she was determined, which combined to retard her progress and make it doubtful that she would complete therapy. Their closeness as partners in therapy seemd at times to make Patricia giddy, and when too much progress occurred, Liz could be sure that Patricia would later cancel appointments, bounce a check, or have some crisis that would delay one or more sessions.

And just in case a crisis or missed appointment wasn’t in order, Patricia made sure she was busy all the time. Though now nearing the end of her pregancy, her life was full of endless errands, projects, work-related tasks, parenting, and other activity that left her little time (if any) to reflect or to work on issues that had been raised in therapy. As a result of her compulsively busy lifestyle, Liz knew that it was unlikely that Patricia would make much progress at really reversing the destructive habits built during her crippled childhood.

“She’s still an orphan at heart,” Liz mused to herself, “a lost girl who never got what she needed–and is still paying for it–and perpetuating it.” If only Patricia would make healing her priority! Liz grinned wryly and said out loud, “Liz, now you sound like a therapist!”

Liz looked at her watch again and realized that Patricia was already 10 minutes late. She walked out of her office and asked the receptionist, Ashley, if there had been any calls. “No calls, Dr. Evans,” Ashley replied. “And no cancellations of any kind.”

Liz frowned. Not again. Patricia made time for what she wanted to do, whether it was PTA meetings or watching American Idol with friends. It was becoming increasingly clear that their therapeutic relationship wasn’t a priority, maybe because Patricia had received just enough help to begin to feel better about herself and her ability to give her children a better life than the one she’d had. After all, Patricia wasn’t an alcoholic and didn’t keep addicts and alcoholics in her life; that made her a better parent than the ones she’d had.

This was the problem that many clients had: they got just enough help and relieved just enough emotional pain that they thought they didn’t need anything or anyone else. After only one or two months (or even years) of therapy or even self-help, they considered themselves finished. Rather than plumbing the depths and fixing what was truly broken, they did a slap-dash remodel job, made things look better on the surface–“like a home staging you see on a remodeling show!” Liz exclaimed to herself–and then they quit therapy and quit doing the deep work they so needed. They raised their children with the appearance of ‘normal,’ but because real health was lacking and so much was repressed and projected, usually the selfsame problems that had occurred in the family of origin resurfaced in the next generation. Even if Patricia managed to keep drunks and enablers out of her own life, she was almost certain to have a child who developed an addiction or who needed to enable an addict, because Patricia’s unhealed, rejected parts would demand reparation and finally become manifest in the very children she sought to save.

Carl Jung admonished more than once that those destined to fall into a pit ought to prepare themselves for it rather than falling into it backwards. “Everyone goes into the pit of self-discovery,” Liz mused, “but most don’t go there voluntarily.” Yet how much better it would be if they did!

celtic05 by you.

Liz picked up her desk phone and dialed Patricia’s work number. This was a young woman who could do this–she could make it! She could do something different than her parents and grandparents had done, if only she would stick with the grueling psychological work. But Patricia wasn’t at work, the receptionist said.

Liz called Patricia’s home phone and was surprised when a young child answered. “Is Patricia there?” Liz asked, and was answered with heavy breathing and the sound of little feet pattering along the floor. “IT’S FOR MOMMY!” the child’s voice cried, and after a moment a woman’s voice asked “Who’s this?”

“This is Liz Evans calling for Patricia,” Liz repeated. “Is she home? We had an appointment today.”

“Oh, this is her neighbor, Karen. But she’s not here. She went to the hospital this morning, she’s having the baby. Want me to give her a message?”

Liz’s heart sank. The baby? Already? She still had two weeks to go! Now what would happen?

“Yes, please tell her that Liz Evans called and that I’m hoping the best for her and the baby, and to give me a call when she feels like it.”

Dismay washed over Liz as she replaced the phone. Patricia was on her way to realizing that she could be a good person, and that she needed to heal and could heal. If Patricia stuck with her decision to give her baby up for adoption, she couldn’t possibly feel good afterward. On some level she might believe she was doing the best thing, but another fractured part of herself would also be a mother longing for her baby. Patricia would have to bury yet another part of herself, making it even less likely that she would be able to integrate all the disparate parts and find a cohesive whole in them, a Self.

Liz sighed, knowing she might never hear from Patricia again and knowing that whatever choice Patricia made about her baby boy would set into motion a lifelong chain of events. Liz had worked with enough families separated by foster care and adoption to know that, if Patricia chose adoption, it would not be as simple a solution for Patricia as she seemed to think it would be. And yet, if she kept her son, life would be even more difficult than it already was. Patricia was just as likely to have her healing thwarted by keeping the baby as she was by giving it up.

“Time will tell,” Liz said. “Time will tell.”

15 responses

  1. Oh this made me so sad. One of the things that made me feel “good” about the adoption of my last 2 children was that adoption counselling was offered to all clients. I always felt that this meant the first parents were getting the most possible support to make a very huge decision. Now I wonder how well they could even access that support. . . Though I am grateful every day for my children, I grieve for them.

  2. “……Their closeness as partners in therapy seemd at times to make Patricia giddy, and when too much progress occurred, Liz could be sure that Patricia would later cancel appointments, bounce a check, or have some crisis that would delay one or more sessions…….”.

    I think a similar dynamic happens in a relationship. If it gets to an emotional level too close or intense for our comfort, we’ll contrive in one way or another to bring it down to a level at which we’re comfortable, which will usually be that which our parents had with each other.

    • Phillip, hi and welcome to Third Eve. Yes, I agree. How many times must we do this? I know my husband and I, or my friends and I, did this dance for many a year. And yet here we are, survivors of the dance.

      Then we leap again!

  3. Hi Eve,
    I so enjoy your blog and I had the opportunity to award you with “The Honest Scrap” award. If you have any questions you can check my page or this link if it posts

  4. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about patterns that keep recurring through the family. I feel so much for my sister’s boys, and the judgment they get from my father. I can see patterns forming already, along with seeing a mum who isn’t great in the patience department with needy kids. My heart breaks.

    And I constantly feel my parents acting through me lately. I do something, and – oh, there he is! Or say that, and oh! there’s mum! Gets a bit much sometimes.

    You know, when I stopped therapy, it was because I wanted to ‘do it on my own’. Work things out for myself – a kind of redefining, away from the parent-therapist. But I see if you have the right person who can reflect yourself to you, its a good thing. (And suspiciously, I immediately feel nauseous thinking about it..! Ahem.)

    • Irene, as I said to David, there are seasons for everything (I think), even therapy. I return to my analyst again and again, but may go months without seeing her. Then, when I need help getting unstuck or unraveling a series of dreams or feel unbearably lonely, I call her. She’s my surrogate mother, and just the right age to be that for me. I wouldn’t be lying if I said I love her, and yet we’re both fully aware of what I’m doing. I put my lost mother pieces onto her, and she carries them for me. At some point I will never call her again, because I’ll be able to call myself. I feel a little teary writing this, but there it is. It somehow seems shameful for a grownup Ph.D. to still need to “call mom,” but there it is. She does indeed show me my need.

  5. I am dying — dying, I tell you! — to see what happens next.

    This post also gave me some food for thought regarding my own current therapy dilemma, which is along the lines of “am I burned out and needing a break, or resistant and fearful of doing any real work?” It’s hard to tell the difference.

    • David, what a long hiatus I’ve had here. I’ve missed you and am going to catch up with you via blog today.

      Sometimes it’s time to move on, and sometimes we only think it’s time to move on. ;o) I’d hazard a guess that many times, the therapist thinks the client ought to continue on, but the client invents reasons for not continuing. But one session is better than none. Therapy can become stale because we become stale and need breaks. I don’t think we come with eternal “on” switches. Like the earth, we need seed time and harvest, times of dormancy etc.

  6. I stopped by to comment on how sad I was that I would have to wait for a new installment on this story, and here one is. Yay! Glad to see your internet connection is working again–or you’ve at least found a workaround for now.

    Even without kids, it’s hard to break the cycles we’ve seen in our parents. One of my boyfriend’s favorite ways to insult me is to tell me that I’m acting like my parents–who, incidentally, aren’t abusive addicts or anything like that, but are, um, quirky. And perhaps dysfunctional. I agree with him (reluctantly) when he says this, and yet, bringing my behavior and its origins to my attention doesn’t really help.

    Anyway, I’m enjoying reading about someone else’s progress, in lieu of making any of my own. Self-discovery is hard!

    • Aunty, I’m sorry it’s been awhile since I updated. I’m finding life very hectic over the past several months and trying to learn new ways of carving out time for myself–and blogging.

      I had to smile over your comment on the insult. In my household if we call one another by our parent’s first name, “them’s fightin’ words!” Hehe. I understand!

  7. Deb, supposedly all people have a tendency and need to grow. Just as plants will grow toward the light source, so will people. This is good news for all of us who, like Jacob, wrestle with angels (or demons!) and, as a result, walk with a limp for the rest of our lives. When we heal, our kids heal. Our commitment to truth, love, balance, and right action sets them free, too.

    It has always seemed a paradox to me that the best parenting we do, we do by working on ourselves–not by “fixing” our children. Thus, it’s never really too late to help our children. It feels like it’s too late, and it seems like it’s too late sometimes, but I’ve learned it’s never truly too late. Reality has a way of raising a kid after our work is finished.

  8. A rock and a hard place.

    I’ve done this so many times, started getting help, felt a little better and then stopped. As you said though, this work is the work of middle age and perhaps it’s all Patricia can do right now.

    I did enough to keep me going while raising my kids and working and taking care of Katie. There wasn’t enough time or energy to devote to in depth soul searching.

    It’s awful watching the same patterns play out again and again. Watching my son this morning, replay what I went through with his own father broke my heart. I thought I got away soon enough to protect my son from his father and his addictions but I couldn’t keep my son safe from me.

    We learn too late to help our children it seems.

    • Deb, that’s the way of it for nearly all of us, I guess. Jung preferred to work only with people over age 50, because of it. We must devote so much energy to our personas and then to our children that we have little left for ourselves. We also haven’t learned–if we are going to learn–wisdom until we’re around 50, when Chiron (the wounded healer) makes his return and ushers us into the wise old man/wise old woman stage of life, if we will let him.

      So, theoretically speaking, you’re not alone. I wonder sometimes if I will ever be able to grow up since I’m still raising children while my peers are child free. So think of it this way: it could be worse! LOL!

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