Quite a long time has passed since I wrote my last post here. For one part, I had locked myself out: I had lost my own password and only with the help of my cousin Tobias Bertenbreiter, who does all the technical stuff related to this blog, I finally could get in again.
For another part, I was feeling unable to write, “blocked”. But I think that is over for now (although one never knows, it may come back anytime …)
Nonetheless, I have been quite busy in my practice. And there have been very interesting cases they brought to me. Like the one of a woman that came to me rather pushed by her husband than by her own decision.
Actually she wasn’t very motivated to undergo a therapeutic relationship with me, although she said she needed help, since he felt she was her life.
She complained that practically all her life occurred within the narrow walls of her apartment. She mentioned she did not work nor do much out of her house, mainly because she was totally afraid of having to drive. As a result of her fear, the car, which her husband, the owner of a car sale had given her, virtually remained unsued in her garage.
When I invited her to “play” with my symbols, she reluctantly went to pick out a few (apparently just anything) and incredulously placed them on the wooden board, again, seemingly at random.
“There”, she said, hoping that that was it. After all, she hadn’t wanted to come, and even less so to play games. She was here because her husband had sent her, tired of her complaints.
Well, here’s what she picked: three female figures, a car, and a man within, or rather upon, that car. She placed all these symbols in the gameboard’s lower right corner. (For an interpretation of the positioning see e.g.: von Gontard, Alexander: Theorie und Praxis der Sandspieltheorie, 2nd ed., Ed. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart, 2013)
I asked her to tell me what these figures stood for and what her composition meant, and she replied:
“This is me and my friends. Occasionally we meet to have coffee and a chat”.
I inquired: “How important are these meetings, are your friends to you?” (apparently ignoring that obviously they must be quite important, why else she would have pleced them on the board)
She answered: “Well, we generally have a good time together, but actually we also pick upon each other and gossip a lot, especially about those of us not present”.
Without going further into depth on the issue (although it certainly would have been worth while), I pointed at the gameboard’s vast blank space (about 85% of board surface).
“Look at all this empty space”, I said. “What do you make of it? Do you know this from somewhere in your life?”
“Well, that is precisely how I often feel” was her answer.
“If you allow me”, I replied, “it is also the huge blank space you have allowed to exist in your life. It is the emptyness, the unproductiveness, all your unused potentials”.
She looked at me as if struck by lightning and thunder.
“What do you intend to do about it?”, I asked.
“Nothing”, was her frank but not less surprising reply.
“Do I get this right, you do not want to change your situation? Then why do you complain about it?”
She remained silent, not willing to go into details. I decided to change the subject.
“What about the car and the man you placed on the board?, I asked, “does it have to do with your fear to drive?”
“Maybe”, she said, “actually, I put it there without thinking much. As you said I should let myself be giuded just by what sprang into my eyes, what I felt like picking …”
“Tell me about your fear to drive, about what happens when you drive a car”, I suggested.
Very soon the issue became clear. She had not always be afraid to drive. As a matter of fact, years ago she had enjoyed it. But then her husband had begun critizising her driving style, and with the time that had gotten worse and worse, until she felt sick and tired of it. She did not want to drive any longer. Only that her husband wouldn’t accept that. He had bougth her the car and insisted she kept using it. But at the same time he, for his part, kept critizising the way she drove (i.e., she used his “gift”).
So little by little, she invented the driving fear and eventually even believed it herself.
“Does this have to do with the blank space on the gameboard?”, I suddenly asked.
She remained silent for a while and finally uttered “yes”.
Driving, or rather the refusal to, had become a symbol for her entire life, which ultimately was controlled virtually entirely by her husband. So, just as she refused to drive, she refused to fill her life’s empty space, in a form of protest against her overwhelming husband.
I gave this back to her and she nodded.
“You know, you should do something about this”, I finally said. “Either you work this out with your hausband or you should seek a divorce. In any case, filling the empty spaces of your life will be of great help, both for your decision and for what comes afterwards.”
“I know”, she replied, “thank you and good-bye”.
I never saw her again.