This is a session is a workshop that keeps coming back to one
central issue. I have left out the content of the problem presented
to preserve anonymity, but the focus is on her problem behind
her problem. Dick is very confrontive with this client that he
has worked with before, but he is compassionate too.
A new client takes the working chair.
Dick: (Dick talks in a different voice) Awwl rightt, Whada ya want? (laughter from group)
Cl: I'm ready to leave.
Dick: (In the same voice) Weeelllll, that's yer per-og-a-tive.
(In his normal voice) Maybe I'll leave too. So, tell me what it's all about. What do you want? What would your tears say?
Cl: It's just hard for me. That tone of voice and stuff just brought tears.
Dick: I wonder why. Say, "The way I feel right now", say that.
Cl: The way I feel right now.....
Dick: "Reminds me of the time when...." and finish that.
Cl: Reminds me of the time when...... I don't know.
Dick: Oh yes you do!
Cl: No, I don't.
Dick: Oh, come on, come on. (Pause)
You see, this is one of your basic problems, already. You know, we have said, how many words? and we are at the heart of your problem. And do you all see what it is?
Dick: When I say, "it reminds you of .....", instead of just letting yourself spontaneously let that come out, and after it's out, look at it; you want to check it, and know in advance that it's correct. And there is no way that you can do that. Because it won't come out.
Cl: Well, it didn't, nothing came.
Dick: No, and it won't. But do you understand why it didn't come out. Because of what you are doing. It is because of your insistence of knowing first that what you are saying will be safe, and will be correct, and won't embarrass you, and won't make you ridiculous, and all that. It is your fear of being embarrassed.
Cl: Well, of being humiliated.
Dick: That is the same thing you see. To be ridiculous, embarrassed or humiliated. Your fear of being humiliated, which you think is totally legitimate, is actually a terrible burden that you carry around. A terrible burden that you've carried for years, Nancy (not her real name). Really. That fear of being humiliated. Your fear of being humiliated is not a legitimate thing. It is not looking out for yourself. It is not protecting you. It keeps you miserable. The fear, not the humiliation.
What if you are humiliated? Is that such a big deal? Is it? Such a terribly big deal?
Cl: It seems like it is.
Dick: Yeah, it seems like it is. So say this, "I must not be humiliated at any cost. I must not be humiliated."
Cl: I must not be humiliated at any cost.
Dick: Right. "Even though it means my death, I must not be humiliated." Say that.
Cl: Even though it means my death, I must not be humiliated.
Dick: "Even though it means my neck will be broken and my skull fractured, I must not be humiliated."
Cl: Even though it means my neck will be broken and my skull fractured, I must not be humiliated.
Dick: "Even though it means I am soaked in gasoline and burned to death, I must not be humiliated."
Cl: Even though it means I am soaked in gasoline and burned to death, I must not be humiliated.
Dick: "Even though it means that all of my family and all of my nieces, and all of the people I most love suffer terrible torment and die, I must not be humiliated." Say that.
Cl: Even though it means that all of my family and all of my nieces, and all of the people I most love suffer terrible torment and die, I must not be humiliated.
Dick: Yeah, so much for "I must not be humiliated." Whether you are humiliated or not, is about that important. (Dick holds up a finger and thumb about an inch apart). I wonder if you can start to see that. What do you think is more important, that your neck not be broken and your skull not fractured, or that you not be humiliated.
Cl: Well that.
Dick: Not "Well that", which? I'm asking you seriously.
Cl: Well, it's obvious.
Dick: To whom?
Dick: Not to me. That is why I'm asking. I don't know what you will say.
Cl: Well, it would be worse to have your neck broke.
Dick: So you would say it would be better to be humiliated if your neck is not broke. You have to chose between the two.
Dick: Well, this is what I would like you to see Nancy. Your fear of being humiliated is absolutely not valid. It is nothing but a terrible burden. It is a chain that you carry around both ankles so you can't run and dance.
Dick: Yeah, wow.
Cl: The reason I fear humiliation......
Cl: Is because when I feel humiliated, I shut down, emotionally. I mean I shut down. I just go within myself.
Dick: But you are shut down with your fear of humiliation all the time. You don't let yourself come out.
Cl: Well, sometimes. But when I'm feeling humiliation, I know I am going to be shut down.
Dick: Well, but you are just continuing what you are doing anyway. Because you shut yourself down when you are not humiliated, when you are just afraid of being humiliated.
Cl: Not as much lately.
Dick: (Chuckles) I am glad to hear that.
Cl: Well, it's true.
Dick: Well, glad to hear it. Glad to hear it. So, tell me what you'd like to get out of this session.
Cl: Ohhh! (sounding very emotional).
Dick: Now this would be a very good chance for you to shut down, right now.
Cl: Uh huh.
Dick: Go ahead.
Cl: As a matter of fact, I was thinking maybe I shouldn't work right now.
Dick: Go ahead and do it. And maybe you won't get a chance to work at all. But it is up to you, it is your choice, you see. I am not going to say, "Please work".
Cl: I know. But why did we have to start like this?
Dick: Because that is what you presented. Your fear of humiliation. And like I said, You presented it in the first ten words you spoke, and that is where it is at.
Cl: (sniffles) Well, it is going to be hard to work because I am not feeling real safe.
Dick: I never promised you a rose garden. And I never promised you a straight path to walk upon. If you are feeling safe (I want to tell you something), when you are feeling safe, you are not able to work. Safety stands in the way of your work. You can only work when you are not feeling safe. When you are feeling safe, you don't need to work. And when you are feeling safe, you can't work, because the very thing you need to work with is, not feeling safe. And what is this little thing that you said? Say "Dick, you are making me feel not safe".
Cl: (Who has continued to sniffle through Dick's comments) I didn't say that.
Dick: I want you to say it now. I am asking you to say it now.
Cl: Dick, you are making me feel not safe.
Dick: Say it again.
Cl: Dick, you are making me feel not safe.
Dick: What did you feel when you said that?
Cl: Well nothing, but I was aware of me not wanting to experience anything.
Dick: I noticed a tremendous change in your voice.
Cl: It's because I didn't want to experience anything.
Dick: Well, there is a tremendous change. You have become suddenly much centered, much more in yourself, much more assertive, much more outgoing than you were. Because you didn't want to experience, or because you suddenly started to experience?
Cl: I felt that I didn't want to experience, so I was going to say it in a very neutral way, without any emotion.
Dick: Do you think it is possible that what I had you say ("Dick, you are making me feel unsafe") that that was what you were really experiencing? What you were really feeling?
Dick: Maybe. Because you know, whenever we assert verbally what is really happening with us, we feel the feeling of relief, we feel more centered, our voice deepens and changes, our gaze becomes direct instead of being schitzy like this (Dick mimics what she had looked like), the way yours was a few seconds ago, right?
Cl: I don't know. I wasn't aware of it.
Dick: Well, I was. And you are aware now that you are making very steady eye contact, right?
Cl: Yeah, but I don't understand. In a lot of workshops, a lot of people will say (about the best time to work), people will say, "I don't know if I should work because I'm feeling so good, and a lot of times the person presenting will say, "That's the best time to work!"
Dick: When you are feeling good?
Dick: Yeah. That is the best time to work.
Cl: Well, how can that be? How can you be feeling good and unsafe. You say it is the best time to work when you are feeling unsafe. So how can that be? How can both be true?
Dick: It is basic that they are both true. That is the nature of truth. It says that the things that are diametrically opposite are both equally true, at the same time.
Cl: But usually if people are not feeling safe, they are not feeling good.
Dick: How do you know?
Cl: Well, I would be willing to bet that they aren't.
Dick: You would be willing to bet. Well, how would we determine if they are or not.
Cl: I suppose ask them. But if they are not feeling unsafe at the time, how would they really know?
Dick: That's right. So there is really no way that we can answer that question.
Cl: Not unless you follow them around, and waited until they were feeling unsafe.
Dick: Well, should we do that?
Dick: We might get into some interesting places. So what were you going to work on?
Cl: Well, I was going to work on being grounded, so that I wouldn't get pulled out here by people around me. And that especially relating to some decisions I made in my life. (Client starts crying softly)
Dick: What are the decisions that you've made that this relates to?
Cl: (long pause) This is really hard because I'm feeling just like I'd like to shut down.
Dick: Well, that's your prerogative. That's totally your right. But why are you telling me that you are feeling that. Are you sending me a message?
Cl: I guess that I am not wanting to stand up and just say, "Forget about it"
Cl: And I am trying to verbalize it as a way of putting it out there, so it can change.
Cl: Does it really matter what the decisions are?
Dick: Yeah, I have no way to move unless there is something specific. You see, you are right up against your central problem, right now, aren't you? And that central problem is, being secretive, and not revealing yourself. Am I not right? For fear that you will somehow be humiliated.
I'm talking about what you are talking about right now, your problem. What you are up against. Right now you are up against your central problem, which is that you are very very secretive, because of your inordinate fear of being humiliated. Which is what we started with, and that is where it is. And the problem, you know, is not that you get drawn out of yourself and so on, the problem is, that you are so fearful of taking a stand, of revealing yourself. That is your problem. And the other problems that you set up, Nancy, are like facades that stand in front of that problem. Let's go through that.
Cl: I don't know what you mean. Am I supposed to do something?
Dick: Yeah. Go right through the fear of revealing yourself, and reveal yourself. The poem says,
"I would reveal myself to you
just as I am.
As for the demons, I invite them in." (See Poetry of Dick Olney for the full version)
Cl: Well, I felt better about revealing myself before I got up here. And I have not been nearly as secretive in my life.
Dick: As you are being right now?
Cl: As I was when I first started working with you. I think I am fairly open.
Dick: Well, let's compare to what you are being right now, because what you were, when we first started to work, is past, right?
Dick: Let's just deal with right now. What is happening right now?
Cl: Well, I'm feeling really scared.
Dick: That's right. And that is what you have to face. That is what you have to face. And believe me, I would not do you a favor by making you feel safe, because if I make you feel safe, because if I induce a trance and make you feel safe and self confidence, then you will not face the fear. You have to go through it. There is no other way. Are these decisions that you are talking about such tremendously shocking decisions?
Dick: Then what is your fear about? It is just a habit of ...........do this with your hands, slowly, and feel yourself do it. (Dick moves his arms from the front far to the sides, exposing his torso) . That is what you are afraid to do. You just have a habit of keeping yourself closed. Do this. (Dick repeats the gesture and client also does it) Right. That is what you are afraid to do.
Cl: Well, I guess they are not shocking except to the people around me. Not these people, I mean the people in the real world.
Dick: Okay, but we are not out in the real world, we are in this false world. So I am not asking you to be open with those people in the real world, I am just talking about right now. You are talking to me, here.
Cl: (client talks about her decision)
Dick: Anybody shocked by her decision. No, nobody is shocked. Tell me more. Your other decisions.
Cl: Well, that is the main one.
Dick: Okay, how do you feel? I want you to do it this way. Turn and look at the group. Look at the group. Turn your head and look at the group, over there, and over there. And keep looking at them. No, don't turn your head, and say to them "I'm (her decision)."
dialogue about her decision
Cl: I've been working with my therapist on this and he kind of said that you are going to have to view it that they (her parents) are not going to be there anymore.
Dick: That's right. You will not have their approval.
Cl: And I think my aunts and uncles are going to view me as a terrible sinner. ...
Dick: But that will be their view. At this point, it looks like that will be their view. So we keep coming to this point of your being grounded, Nancy. What does that mean to you?
Cl: Well, to be grounded so that I stay in what I believe, and where I am coming from. Because I think that I am coming from a real healthy place with it, myself. So I don't get pulled into what they are thinking that I am doing a terrible thing. .....
Dick: So what would being grounded mean to you?
Cl: Not getting pulled out.
Dick: Well, can that be more specific? Being pulled out is too vague, not specific enough.
Cl: Not getting caught up. Being centered.
Dick: That means one thing. That you would have to give up your desire, what you experience as a need, for their approval.
Cl: I want to please them, but I can't always please them if I have my own life.
Dick: That's true, but let's be more specific, then. "I want to please them". That is general again. It is not that you just want to please them, you ... want ... their ... approval.
Cl: Or at least their acceptance. They don't have to agree with it.
Dick: You don't even want them to say that they don't agree with this, or that they don't approve of it. You want them to approve of it.
Cl: At least at some level.
Dick: At this point, you would be satisfied with it. If they say that they don't approve of it, you are going to be real hurt by it.
Cl: And my sister, I haven't even talked to her about it, even jokingly.
Dick: Well, the last thing that I would do about it is joke.
Cl: Well, I started that a few years ago just to ease it in a little bit.
Dick: And how did that work?
Cl: Well, ..... Okay.
Dick: What do you mean, okay?
Cl: They got a little more used to the idea, I think.
Dick: So they got a little more vehement in their condemnation.
Cl: No, they didn't do that until I got a little more serious.
Dick: That's right. So actually, when they see that you are more serious, it hasn't made any difference, the joking.
Cl: I guess not.
Dick: In fact, joking about it sends the message, "I'm only kidding."
Cl: That's the only way I felt safe at first. (Crying)
Dick: And here you are right back at your basic problem that we started with a half hour ago. Your great need to feel safe at any cost. Even if it means that you have to tell lies, you have to feel safe.
Cl: Well, I don't know about that.
Dick: What? Do you mean, when you are pretending to joke about something that you are being serious about, that it is not telling a lie?" When you are sending the message, "I'm just joking about this", when you really mean it seriously? And you told that lie, rather than feel unsafe. What you call safe means that you will risk not having their approval. That's what you always mean when you say, "feeling safe". Because if you look back on it, you talked about a half hour ago about not feeling safe with this group here, and not feeling safe with me, and so on.
Now, you knew that nobody here was going to hit you on the head with a pipe wrench, or break your ankle, or something like that. What you meant was, you didn't feel safe: we might disapprove of you. To you, feeling safe means that people approve of you. And that is precisely your problem.
Cl: Well, not so much that they approve, but that I don't feel humiliated.
Dick: And when do you feel humiliated? When they don't approve.
Cl: Well, they could feel neutral. I don't always feel humiliated if they don't approve. I don't think I do. I know you think I do. Well, it isn't my awareness.
Dick: Let's keep trying to get one up on each other, okay? So I would say, "That's your problem". How are you going to get around that?
Cl: Well, I don't want to argue.
Dick: Good, so now you would really be one up on me, except that I see that you'd be one up, so that puts me one up. (Laughter from the group)
Cl: Well, I could say that I see that you see ... (more laughter)
Dick: That's right, but you know that I could very quickly get one up on that. So just assume that I end up being one up and that's where it's at. (laughter)
Cl: Well, really, I find that humorous, but I don't experience myself as wanting to be one up on you.
Dick: Well, I tell you, I don't experience myself as wanting
to be one up on you either. But that is part of the game of therapy.
Dick: So here you are, today, with the fact that you have made this decision. And now you are agonizing about the fact that some people that you mentioned, and there are a lot of people, your father, your mother, your sister, aunts and uncles, (Dick names others that she had mentioned), that is a hell of a lot of people are not going to approve. And you might as well face that fact. And it is all well and good to say, "they don't have to approve, just so they don't disapprove too openly" or something like that.
Cl: Like at work, I don't even know how I'm going to deal with it, you know, how I'm going to tell them. Because I don't want to tell them and have there just be silence.
Dick: What would you want?
Cl: I just want to go in and tell them and say there is something I'm really joyous about, and I want to share it.
Dick: And have them approve of it.
Cl: I don't know. Maybe. Well, there's that dead silence where everybody is thinking, "This is a terrible thing but how do we deal with it now that she has thrown it out there."
Dick: So you want them to approve of it.
Cl: Probably at some level.
Dick: What is all this "at some level" stuff. What level is that?
Cl: I just don't want them to be (pause)...
Dick: You don't want them to be disapproving, not at some level, at all levels. That's the way it is.
Cl: I guess I want them to be all right with it.
Dick: But what you are afraid of is that they are going to gossip. And you would call that "being humiliated." Why do you have to be humiliated if people gossip about you? We are back to your central problem. This is what we started with an hour ago. I told you we were at it, and we have gone through this whole thing and we are right back there where we started. Your fear of being humiliated. Why is that so tremendous to you? What is it to be humiliated, anyway?
Cl: Well, in this particular situation, if I get humiliated, I'll shut down and I won't be as accessible.
Dick: But what is it to be humiliated? What is that process or state?
Cl: I don't know.
Dick: Well, this is what we have to find out. This is what you have to experience. Because the essence of working is to find out what you do, and how you are doing it, and to experience that, non-defensively, without self criticism or self evaluation. And so you have to answer that question, you say, "I don't know." Exactly what is this humiliation that you are so fearful about?
Cl: Well, with my family, it's that they won't respect me any more.
Dick: Right. And if they don't respect you? Say, "If they don't respect me, ..." Then what? What is so terrible about that?
Cl: Well, that is terrible in itself.
Dick: Because ....
Cl: Because they will treat me without any respect.
Dick: That is circular. So if they don't respect you, they won't treat you with respect, and what is so awful about that?
Cl: I don't know. It is just awful.
Dick: Well, this is what you have to look at Nancy, this is what we are working on.
This is what you have to know. What is so terrible about being humiliated? 1) That they won't respect you. 2) That they won't approve of you. 3) They may say bad things about you. Gossiping behind your back, and 4) They may say disrespectful things to your face, directly to you. Those are the things that can happen. And can you live with that?
Cl: I suppose I'll have to.
Dick: I'm asking you "Can you live with it?" Not, "I suppose I'll have to." See, this is what I am trying to forestall for you. I am trying to keep you from finding yourself, two or three years from now, as a victim. I want you to see very clearly that you are making a choice. And that your choice is not a simple thing like (her decision). That is only the first step. You have to make the choice to give up the respect of your family, of all these people that you've talked about. You are going to have to make a choice saying "Yes, they will not respect me. And yes, they will say things to me that are disrespectful." And yes, when I am not there and they talk about me, instead of talking about me with respect and admiration, they are going to say things about me that are very disrespectful. Yes my father will say, "Why didn't you wait until I was gone. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me and she did it to me." My father will say that.
Now that is what you have to be willing to say, "I choose that!" If it turns out better than that, or if with the passage of time it gets better, that's fine. But don't count on it. Don't count on it. Don't put all your money on the bob-tail nag, and then just imagine it is going to win, just because you put all your money on it. Somebody else bet on the gray. What's happening right now?
Cl: That is what I have been unable to do, to accept that.
Dick: So that is what I am trying to do with you, because if you don't accept that, when that happens, you will then see yourself as a helpless victim.
Cl: Yeah, I don't want to do that.
Dick: And you will have all the responses of a helpless victim: the spite, the blind rage, the endless frustration, the bitterness, the feeling of helplessness, of impotence. All those things. And you will say, "I couldn't help it." No, I am trying to get you out of the role of being the victim of necessity, and making yourself a player with choice. So clearly that when you chose that, you are also choosing the clear possibility, and you best view it as a certainty at this point. So don't expect your father to turn around. Don't expect your mother to turn around. It may be all well and true that your mother doesn't agree with everything your father says, but your mother says, "Why do you do this to me?" And that is only the start. Your sister, you haven't even talked to your sister about it. And when you say, "I bring it up in a joking way", that really is not an effective way to bring that up. That merely is a way of pretending to bring it up, without your having to face her anger and her rage and her disapproval. You have to ask yourself the question, "Does my self respect depend on their respect for me?" And if it does, then you cannot afford to be without their respect, because without it you consider yourself worthless. That is what you have to look at. And I don't think we can settle all that here, today. But if I am able to help you to look at that clearly, and see all the ramifications of what you have to choose, of what your choice entails, then I will have considered that I was helpful and useful to you today.
Right, what are you feeling right now?
Cl: Kind of tearful and ...
Dick: You also seem more solid and centered.
Cl: I may be there and not be aware of it.
Dick: I am aware that your voice is much calmer, there isn't that kind of hysterical note, as if you are on the verge of crying and sobbing.
Dick: Your face is not as tense as it was. You appear more relaxed.
Cl: Yeah. I guess it's hard.
Dick: Yes. But if you see what I've been trying to point out to you, then you have made a lot of progress in getting up here, and facing your fear of being humiliated in front of these people. Do you feel humiliated?
Cl: I feel real exposed.
Dick: But that's not my question. My question is, "Do you feel humiliated?" I feel very exposed too, but I don't feel the least bit humiliated. Or do you have a self image of the world being so unfriendly that you daren't expose yourself. Is that where it is?
Cl: Well, I don't have that self image all the time, but sometime I do.
Dick: But right now?
Cl: No, I don't feel that.
Dick: The fear of being humiliated is so great that your motto is: "I must not expose myself!" And I say, "Are you feeling humiliated right now?" and you say, "No, but I feel very exposed." The message I get from that is, "I could be humiliated at any second, right?
Cl: I could be.
Dick: And what if you were? What does that mean to be humiliated? That is not something that happens out here that these people do, or anywhere, at work, or in your family. That is something that happens totally inside yourself. It is a totally internal process.
Cl: I know, but it is an awful feeling.
Dick: I know that too. Because years and years ago, I was in a very similar pickle, there was this fear of being exposed, this fear of being humiliated. When I was young, when I was in my teens, and even when I was in my early twenties, I had the feeling, I had the belief that being humiliated was a kind of death. And it's not. And just the knowledge that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" frees me from the fear of being humiliated.
Really, what is it to be humiliated? It is to be brought down, to be very humbled. And what is wrong with being humble? You know, the greatest saints have been humble. Nothing wrong with humility.
Cl: Yeah, I know that, but it doesn't seem like what humiliation is.
Dick: No, Humiliation is what the ego is up against. And I identify with my ego. That great ego.
Cl: Humiliation feels more like a jeering or taunting.
Dick: Sure, and what is the difference? "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" and that's where it's at. That is really where it is at.
Cl: So are you saying that I am not to have contact with my family?
Dick: No, I am not saying that. I am saying, "Don't expect your family to approve. And you may very well find out that having contact may be so painful that you may choose not to have contact. I am not saying you should or should not have contact with them. Because if your grandparents and your brother and your aunts disapprove, that is going to be the attitude. And if you have no contact with them, the question is, "Why don't we ever have contact?" And if you do have contact, there will be these things coming up. That is the risk you take. So don't get into that situation and then say, "Oh, I didn't know it was going to be like this. You know what it can be like.
Cl: But it doesn't mean that it is a certainty?
Dick: Right, but when you say that to me, you are saying, "I'll put my money on the bob-tail nag."
Cl: So you are saying that it is a certainty?
Dick: I am not saying that it is or is not a certainty. But you have to allow for it. What are you going to do if that is the way it happens?
Cl: That's why I want to be balanced and centered.
Dick: What does it mean to be balanced and centered? What you are saying is that you are not going to depend on your father, and mother and sister, etc. You are not going to depend on their expression of respect for you to give you your own feeling of self worth. You are going to have to find your own self worth and let them go. Because if you are depending on them, you are forever at their mercy. And you better bet your sweet biffy, that if they are fundamentalists, that they are not going to have a change of heart and say, "Oh, it's all okay!" I don't believe it. I grew up with them. I know how strictly bigoted they can be. I've seen them condemn members of their own family, to say nothing of just neighbors and members of the same congregation.
Cl: So, are you saying that I'm making a mistake?
Dick: No, I am saying you have to make your own decisions, but you have to make your decisions with the full knowledge of all possibilities and eventualities and not say, "Maybe it won't happen." You have to be able to say, "I choose this even though my father will never forgive me, or never speak to me, or will never say a good word to me. And even though I know my sister will insult me. If that happens, I will still do it." Not saying, "I am going to do it, and maybe they won't be that way." Do you see what I am saying?
Cl: Uh huh.
Dick: Your pattern, your whole life, has been that you have tried to please them, right?
Cl: Yes. I don't think they would think that.
Dick: They might not think that, but that has been your pattern, and I know that, we have worked with that enough. That actually is your pattern, no matter what they think. They would probably say that you haven't pleased them enough. There is no end to how much you can please them. Well, this you know is not going to please them.
Cl: And they are very likely to take this that I am trying intentionally to displease them.
Dick: That is right. As is you are doing this to throw dirt in their face, to sully the family name. That's right. That is realistic. Well, I feel like we have reached a plateau. Things have come together a little bit. Would you like sharing from people?