Life changed drastically in March when shelter in place began in the Bay Area. Our lives continue to be impacted in multiple and ongoing ways since then.
One of those ways is that psychotherapy is now conducted via video ( or by phone). In many ways therapy is the same, and in other ways it is different. We are still two people having a confidential and evocative conversation about your life. And yet meeting on video has literally altered the way we see each other and the ways we are able to interact.
There is a certain intimacy about meeting in our homes, seeing bits and pieces of our lives outside the office. There may be interruptions: children, pets, doorbells, partners, roommates. Privacy and good WiFi may be issues at times. Video platforms are not perfect and there can be interruptions, poor quality video or audio, or wavy Zoom wallpaper.
Rituals have changed. Beginnings and endings of sessions are no longer punctuated by being met in the waiting room, walking to and from the office door, sitting down, getting up, the information that comes from being physically in the presence of another. Instead we both log into Zoom and you wait to be admitted to the call. There is often a hand wave at the end of the call, a poignant new ritual to end a session instead of walking out the door.
There is no longer time spent getting to and from the office, or in the waiting room before sessions; this was often a time to muse, think, feel, to be with yourself before and after your session. Now you have to purposefully make transition time, which I highly recommend.
We are now literally talking heads to each other. I had a newer client comment recently that she has never seen more than a portrait view of me! Our faces are life size on the screen, much closer than we would be with each other in the office. There is often more eye contact than there might be in the office, where you might look away more frequently for various reasons .
Recently I have begun going into the office a couple of days a week to work virtually. Clients who previously met me in my office have commented happily "You are in your office!" It is a familiar place, formerly as much a part of the therapy as the two of us were, a place that holds their secrets, sorrows, joys, hopes and fears.
And thankfully we are adaptable beings! Video psychotherapy is a different experience in many ways, yet also still the same two people connecting in whatever way we have available during this strange and unsettling time. I am grateful that psychotherapy is still possible, even more important and essential during these times.
Contact me if you would like to try video psychotherapy
And people stayed at home
And read books
And they rested
And did exercises
And made art and played
And learned new ways of being
And stopped and listened more deeply.
Someone meditated, someone prayed
Someone met their shadow
And people began to think differently
And people healed.
And in the absence of people who
Lived in ignorant ways
Dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
The earth also began to heal.
And when the danger ended and
People found themselves
They grieved for the dead
And made new choices
And dreamed of new visions
And created new ways of living
And completely healed the earth
Just as they were healed.
- Kitty O'Meara
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches against a future sky?
Nature is in full bloom as we move through Spring into summer Might there also be something within you that is trying to blossom? Is there an internal seedling that is trying to push through and take shape in your life? We are a part of nature as much as any plant or flower, so it makes sense that at this time of the year there would also be something within that wants to come into being.
This is a good time to follow a creative impulse, a new activity, something you may have thought about during the inward seasons of fall and winter. Or you might be called to expand and grow in some desired and perhaps feared way. Maybe you could spend some time with yourself and imagine, feel or intuit what wants to take shape, what wants to come alive in your life right now. What seed wants to sprout, be watered, fertilized and tended to that will enrich your life now and possibly in years to come?
Let difficulty transform you.
And it will.
In my experience we just need help
in learning not to run away.
- Pema Chodron
No one likes it when life feels scary or hard or when a situation arises that seems insurmountable. Many of us end up in flight, fight or freeze mode when we are overwhelmed or anxious. Our brain's natural survival instinct is to get away fast! As children we may have been in precarious, inescapable family situations where we learned to run away emotionally or mentally to survive.
This survival tactic served us as small, dependent beings. But as adults, running away usually compounds the difficulty in multiple ways. If we can find ways to face them head-on, these experiences CAN be transformative. If we can hold on to our mind and not lose it to paralyzing fear or flight, we can find a deeper, stronger place within ourselves that we never knew existed, a place that is paradoxically indestructible in the face of something that may feel annihilating.
But how, you may ask.... having the courage to take a deep breath ( or many) and be with the feelings that arise from the difficulty. Breathing into and fully experiencing them, separating them the anxious thoughts that perpetuate these feelings. Meditating, drawing, journaling, singing, dancing, spending time with trusted others and in nature, listening to your dreams and the messages they may send you. Knowing you don't have to go through this alone, that there are others who can and will support you in a variety of ways.
As the hours of darkness begin to slowly wane from the winter sky,
So too may the fearful places of your heart unclench their grasp on your life
As the presence of light begins to grow with greater sureness with each passing day
May your own courage blossom to open more brightly to truth and love.
Let this be the year that you turn off the television and silence the talk radio chatter
in order to pick up the writing pen, the paintbrush,
and watch the candle slowly burn.
May this be the year that you delight
in seeing how much joy you can extravagantly spread.
May you discover just how much beauty you can recklessly shower
upon this thirsty world.
May this be the year that you tune both the dusty piano in the corner
and the inner listening of your care-worn heart
So that both can play in harmony with the chorus of creation.
May you break the invisible yardstick of impossible expectations
and learn that just as you are,
you are enough.
May this be the year that you cease trying to march to an imagined ideal
and instead, wrap your arms around the messy wonder your life really is,
hold it close
and do the tango.
Let this be the year you befriend your soul in its radical particularity,
not forsaking it yet again for the bland demands and cravings of the masses.
Instead, may you elope with the wildness of your own true calling,
marry your soul to its deepest longings
and invite the hungry world to the wedding feast.
- Kayleen Asbo
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley