I think back to some of the National Geographic photos that most captivated me as a young girl, and what I see in my mind's eye is both haunting and beautiful. My gaze drawn to the images of dried mud, caked and cracked on weathered flesh so worn that one might mistake it for the skin of a rhinoceros…layered, creased, divided into sections as if to display the story held in every cell of the body.
I could sit for hours and reflect on those images…think and wonder about the lives each human has lived…with all of its joy, pain, and glory.
We often feel that we need to show up in life with our best face, uncertain that our family, friends, romantic partner…even our therapist will want to, or be able to gaze upon our ugly.
The bits that are messy are the bits that hold some of the most important details, and without those parts, we are but a painting half-finished. The contrast of both dark and light that gives our portrait depth and meaning.
We come into this world covered in blood, messy, crying, hungry, cold, fearful of being separated from our womb. Why do we think we are meant to continue through life polished and gleaming with a warm smile to communicate everything is alright in the world…in our world?
When others attempt to move us along quickly from what we are feeling, it's very likely that they are uncomfortable with the messy, sticky bits. Even therapists have the propensity to do the same. I’m not a big fan of solution-focused and strengths-based therapeutic approaches if there is not space for sitting with the less popular emotions, thoughts, and feelings.
The space you share with your therapist is a space where not only can you take off your mask(s), we can spend hours gazing upon them and your fully painted portrait…the polish, the shine and the layers that feel too frightening to explore alone.