Monday, January 31, 2011
When We Crave Sex, Sometimes It's Touch We Really Need
The problem was the superhuman standard to which his boss held him.
He was expected to plan everything for a conference their entire team was attending. Other team members seemed to have time to spare, but Greg was always under the gun. When he tried to reach his boss to ask questions about their itinerary, his calls and emails went unreturned. When something fell through as a result, he was grilled about why it hadn’t been taken care of.
When he tried to improve their display for the convention hall, the fifteen bucks he spent on materials was held over his head. When there weren’t enough business cards for every member on the team, somehow he was to blame.
It was killing Greg. He felt like he couldn’t win. He hated to disappoint people, so to have someone over him who was continually unhappy was excruciating.
He was thinking about quitting.
“Don’t do that,” I said. “This is a great opportunity.” I must have sounded like a bubbly cheerleader rooting on my favorite gladiator. (Later he would tell me, “That was bizarre. You didn’t tell me to keep my job in spite of what I was going through, but because of it!”)
“How much better it will be to get free in your job than to get free of your job!”
He made a commitment to his wife and to God that he wouldn’t go to porn anymore. Now I was telling him he shouldn’t quit his job. He had the wide eyes of an animal right before it’s devoured.
For the rest of that session I did everything I could to try to help him unload emotional responsibility for his boss’s satisfaction.
Like my mentor, Craig Berthold, I role-played his boss and asked him to hold up some books from my bookshelf. “These are the boxes that hold my happiness.” Told him he wasn’t doing it well enough. Told him it would spill out if he didn’t tilt it just right. Asked him to raise it higher. Not that high. What’s wrong with you?Eventually he did drop the books in disgust.
I called his efforts idolatry. I told him that he could load sacrifices on the altar of pleasing his boss for the rest of his life--and yet his boss’s satisfaction was a god would never be full enough to stop demanding more.
Like Byron Katie, I encouraged him to say, “I accept that he will always be disappointed in me. I look forward to hearing his growl the next time I let him down.” Greg stuck out his tongue and held his stomach the first time he said those words, but it got easier as he repeated them.
I called Greg the next day to check in. He already sounded more relaxed. At our next session he looked more at ease.
He told me about an incident at the convention. Some materials had been left at the front desk of the hotel. No one on their team had remembered them; everyone had forgotten them. As he was loading materials up the elevator to where his team was setting up in convention hall, he had received three texts in two minutes from his boss: “What are you going to do about it?” “What are you going to do about it?!!” “WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?!!”
As he recounted the incident, the intensity of the texts wasn’t reflected on his face.
“I’m not going to quit. He may fire me. I just decided that I’m going to only do what I can and not get too caught up in how he reacts. I can only control what I do. It’s up to him how he responds.”
I could tell that he meant what he was saying, but I’m not used to seeing see that kind of shift in clients in one week’s time. “So you just decided not to get too caught up…”
“Yeah, like we talked about last time.”
“I know we talked about it. Just didn’t expect you to be able to really feel it yet.”
“I shared it in group therapy that night. It helped to have everyone there empathize and validate what I was going through.
“Then when I got home, Elise could tell that I was struggling. We’d been talking about how I need more touch, and that’s why I always offered to give her backrubs. She hadn’t given me a backrub in the thirty years we’ve been married. She asked if I wanted one. She has arthritis in her hands so I offered to let her use our massage wand. She said no and just used her hands and arms. It was divine. For over an hour she caressed me and hummed quietly. I turned over and she caressed my chest and arms.
“I kept sighing at first. Then I got really relaxed. After the massage she wrapped her arms around me and held me. She kept holding me to her. Talking softly in my ear. I felt like I was in this protective cocoon and everything was going to be okay. It had a very healing effect. After a while I felt like I didn’t need to be encased anymore. I relaxed and fell asleep. Slept like a baby. That next day I woke up feeling softer, looser. I knew then that everything was going to be okay, no matter what happened with my job.”
Now that’s good therapy.