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What to connect with?

We have many reasons from both experience and research to think that making connection is the most important task for therapists. But what if I start to feel disconnection?

One source of my inspiration nowadays comes from individual supervisions with other therapists. Today we sat with my dear colleague who works mostly with individual clients and she was sharing her experience of disconnecting from a particular male client in a moment when he started to talk about his fear of not having enough sex with his partner who struggles with mental health issues probably stemming from her history of being raped.

Since the therapist was a woman who has a special focus (and sensitivity) for violence on women, it is no surprise she started to feel disconnection and maybe even disgust. She said that she started to perceive the client as selfish. I very much appreciated she brought it up.

In the course of our talk I realized that in the general psychotherapy discourse, a lot of attention is devoted to those moments when something from our personal life or other domains starts to interfere with our therapeutic alliance. Transference and counter-transference are the psychoanalytic terms for the experience that every therapist has to deal with somehow. The client starts to remind us of someone or something from our personal history and our feelings from this history start to come to the surface. Of course, it is important to notice it, to be mindful about it, to accept it, to learn startegies of how to process it.

But I don´t think we devote sufficient time also to the opposite – to the ways how we actually can connect. In this sense, with every new client, we always build a unique arsenal of tools for connection. These can be little things, even from outside therapy. We may like the clients sense of humor, their music preferences, their favorite food that is similar to ours.

The same is true for some capabilities that we admire – i.e. their ability of introspection or their easy-going style, their way of laughing. If we visit them in their home, there could be much more things – the smell of their apartment, a picture on the wall, their cat´s behavior, their attitude towards their dog, their kids, and so on.

If we have enough of these tools, it is precisely in those aforementioned situations where we can appreciate them most. But don´t get me wrong, I don´t mean this:

„Well, I will probably have to leave her if she will not be able to have sex with me more often…“

„Uhm, well, and what about your cat?“

No, no, no. The idea is not to throw the disconnection away. I need to stay with my disconnection that is happening right now, right here. I need to feel it, to experience it, to accept it, to even appreciate it because there are often my crucial values that speak through this experience! I honor my values, I listen to them, and it is OK.

But maybe I can start to split myself a bit. While one part of mine is staying with the disconnection, the other part can go in the opposite direction. Finding ways to connect. This requires going into differentother waters, other fields, topics, while staying in the relationship and in the present moment. Maybe with this part, I am going to stop being so focused on the words of the conversation and instead I am noticing more from other levels of connectio. I am accepting more signals from client´s body, from the surroundings, from the context of his or her life.

It is like when we hold someone we love with our both hands. When one hand starts to feel uncomfortable and starts losing the contact, the other has to do something different. After finding ways to connect, there is always a possibility to bring the experience from the disconnection into the space. When we re-connect again, then is the right time.

My favorite Slovakian music band (that unfortunately no longer play together) have a song that could be translated as „What connects us is stronger and bigger than what divides us“. This song always takes me to the fundamental idea that we always share the world with each other. And even if there are various differences and tendencies to distinguish, separate, define, the glue that ties us together will always be stronger than the separating knives and scissors. I like to see psychotherapy as a laboratory of this process.

I share this song here, unofortunately I did not find a version with English subtitles:

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