“Can I think those both at the same time?” she asked, with a little wonder and a little doubt, my client who wants to both love her body and desires to change its shape.
Yes. Yes, you can.
I’ve been encountering this a lot with clients and with myself in the last week. A theme of growth and contradiction, so I figured it was a good time to bring it up with you. Let me tell you what I mean by way of an example.
My Mom is getting ready to move. It’s a big move, not geographically, but in terms of downsizing and letting go of the stuff that has been a part of her life for a long time. There are a lot of tasks associated with this move, a lot of junk to get rid of, a lot of furniture to distribute between siblings, a lot of planning for trucks and heavy lifting. Ugh. All of it. Ugh. I know it’s ugh for her. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to choose what to keep and what to shed. I can’t imagine simply facing the size of the task. But the truth is, I don’t want to do my part either. I don’t want to help clean out her basement or load my van with stuff or discuss who gets what with my siblings. I don’t want to do any of it. I acknowledge that thought. I really don’t want to do it.
But I DO want to support my Mom. These thoughts are a little contradictory. They don’t line up very well. In the past, I would have stifled the “bad” daughter. I would have gagged her and put her in the closet until the job was done. There is no room for your opinions here, “bad” daughter. Only “good” daughters are allowed. But that wily “bad” daughter would have found a way out. She would have been rude to someone or snapped at somebody else, or just oozed under the door in the form of a contagiously bad attitude.
So now, instead of trying to shut her up, I just acknowledge what she’s saying. Yep, don’t want to do it. Who would? Sounds pretty miserable. Does that mean I won’t do it? No, it does not. It DOES mean I might be a little nicer to myself, making sure I’ve left enough time for those tasks, making sure I’m getting enough rest, taking a few minutes to just sit with the muck of going through all of this old family stuff. I want to support her, so I will do that. My action is a choice, but I can hold a thought that doesn’t support that. If I don’t work so hard to stifle that thought, it actually feels lighter. I can just see it there, give it a little pat on the head and go back to moving boxes.
It takes practice. It takes patience. It takes being open enough to recognize the possibility of holding more than one thought about something and choosing to love and respect both. “It’s okay less good daughter, you can stay. You don’t have to throw a tantrum; you’re right. This sucks, but we’re doing it anyway. If you’re good maybe we’ll stop for one of those fancy teas you like so much.”
This is how we respect ourselves, right? Acknowledging what we think and feel, allowing the dissident voices within to continue to exist, seeing them for what they are, just a part of the whole, a part of a growing changing whole that can be complex and cherished.