TW: Sexual Violence.
Being a Human-Centred, multi-cultural relativist and feminist informed, Emotion-Focused Therapist, working with an Integral Psychotherapy perspective means walking closely with clients on their path of trauma recovery, trying to keep in-step and sensing where they are going. With what they feel they need, can manage, want to explore further, and when safe and ready all act as signposts along the journey. But what happens when they go deep into the varied experience of their fellow women who upwards of 1 in 3 in the U.S. have suffered sexual violence.
She is a client that I have known for nearly 8 years and the first session after a COVID summer began with a short list of new developments. Firstly, we explored her feelings of uneasiness surrounding her young son who now walked by himself to school. There was some reference to a feeling of a growing distance to her long-distance boyfriend which had been previously mentioned. Then the work of the day appeared. She was looking for her blueprint within which to place her own experience. She hadn’t yet found it, but she definitely had explored the possibilities through a range of soul destroying examples, as I was about to find out. My flinching inside warned me!
Three years prior, she woke up to being sexually assaulted by a boyfriend. The week before the session had been the anniversary of the awful violence, and troubling memories, the rest of her PTSD sequelae, along with a mounting distress that it was overtaking her ability to work were all re-emerging from their mind-body dormancy. She had been looking high and low for a blueprint, figuring this might help. I was there to bear witness and share like I always did with this client, what was coming up for me as she processed her way through the things. By the way, she is longstanding client of more nearly 8 years and we’ll we have a very great working relationship – she knows that I will just be myself as therapist and it is ok. This is by now, one of the elements that is helpful, she keeps telling me, in one way or another. But what do I do about my internal flinching?
Hers wasn’t as she read in the memoir of woman who at 12 years old was led out to a forest by a boy and was gang raped. Hers wasn’t like the woman in that wartime novel – raped by a Nazi soldier. Hers wasn’t any of the brutal rapes in various series she’d followed on Netflix. I wondered how she was managing such exposure and shared that I was feeling ‘my own’ anxiety, listening to her and could only imagine what was stirring in her experience. ‘I admire your empathetic research. But are you ok, it is enough?’
“I am ok, but it is hard!”
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA