Over the years, clients have said things to me like,
“You are gonna kill me for what I did”
“I know I should tell you this, but I really don’t want to”
“I don’t think you are gonna like this but..”
Maybe they have decided to get back with an ex, or they are dating again even though a relationship just ended. It could be that they called their father and agreed to have dinner with him despite the fact they always feel awful after they engage with him.
Whatever the reason, most of the time they don’t want to tell me because they are afraid I am judging them. That I will think they are stupid or crazy or weak for their decisions. That I will not like them anymore or kick them out of therapy for not doing it the “right” way. (Side note, If it was possible to get booted from therapy for not doing it the “right way, I would have been tossed years ago). Of course, I am not thinking any of those things, so let’s take a deeper look at what’s really going on here.
On the surface is what is called projection. That is when people take an idea or belief they have about themselves and assign it to another person. In other words, my client probably knew it was not in their best interest to reunite with their ex, but rather than own that, they make it seem as though I think it’s a bad idea. In reality, I am not not judging them; they are judging themselves as weak or stupid or crazy for their choice. And it’s incredibly freeing to just admit that.
I also believe there are also deeper questions here. Underneath what will you think of me, what clients are really asking is ” Will you abandon me in the ways my parents did when I was a child? Will you reject the part of me that wants to be autonomous and sovereign like my mother did? What if I make a mess of this? Can I come back to you for help to figure this out together or will you leave me in a lurch like my father?
I have so much compassion and tenderness for the person “asking” this. There are decades of stored pain and hurt that are finally loosening enough to begin to hope for a different experience. There is something deeply healing about knowing that at least one person on this earth is in your corner.
An equally important inquiry I invite clients into is some version of are you going to abandon yourself if you’ve made a “mess”? Will you stay with your own disappointment or anger with gentleness not disgust? Can you start to trust that you know what is right for you, even if it’s different than what others think? These are rich, powerful dives into loving ourselves when we don’t think we “deserve” it. Do that often enough and you will completely change your relationship with yourself.
Maybe the next time you start to wonder if someone is judging you, this blog will come to mind and you can ask where and how you are judging yourself. And from this place of awareness, you have the option to choose differently.
With so much love,