Thursday, March 18, 2010

Magical Thinking

I've started doing some extra work, some initial assessments and outpatient therapy with more children. I was a little apprehensive at first, but I am finding that this work is feeding me spiritually! Now I understand what Paul meant when he said "though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are growing day by day." As always, God knows just what I need and when I need it. Let me tell you this great story about a little boy I saw the other day.

This child is 8 years old and has a history of abuse and neglect. In our second session, he and I are playing, and I am watching for themes to begin to emerge in his play. Being the analytical adult I am, I am watching for themes of aggression, control, or anger. I am watching for re-enactments of abuse scenarios and perhaps bringing his perpetrator into our play. He surprises me, however, and points out that a little monster doll sitting in the corner is another child at school who has been bullying him. I walk my little princess doll over to Woody, the character he has chosen to represent himself, and say, "Hey, go over there and tell him to go away!" This child looks me in the eye terrified and says, "No, you do it." I realize that this child is not looking to exercise control or aggression. He just wants to feel protected by the adults in his life, so I tell him, "No problem. Let me take care of this." I walk my princess doll over to that monster and give him a thrashing of the MOST epic of proportions. He gets beat, kicked, punched, and utterly destroyed. All the while my client is laughing and jumping with glee. His joy is infectious and I begin laughing too. I tell that little monster, "There, take that! And if you ever mess with my friend again, I'll come back and do the same thing again! Now get out of here!" We take that monster and hide him behind a stack of books. I can tell that the mother, who is looking on, doesn't know whether to laugh with us or be horrified.

That was last week, so I was excited to see my little friend again this week. I ask his Mom how things have been and she says she's seeing improvement. I ask my client about the bully and he smiles and says, "Oh, we're friends now." This is the power of a child's magical thinking and the magic of play! It is so refreshing to me, watching the innocence with which children mold their little worlds. They don't need to read a book about bullies or go to the seminar. They don't need to call a meeting or talk it out-- not that there is anything at all wrong with those methods of change. But those are adult methods.

I'm being reminded of the child's methods of change, which require immense faith. Children make magical connections where none seem to exist in the real world. Sometimes this is to their detriment, such as making the erroneous connection that Dad left the home because they (the child) were not smart enough or assuming they are being abused because they are bad children. I am being reminded through these precious little kids, sometimes feeling good is as simple as just believing it to exist. Sometimes feeling powerful is thrashing a stuffed doll or, in my case, defeating a sink full of dishes. Somewhere along the way, we lose some of the magic of thinking, and I'm so grateful to be reminded I can still pick that skill up when I need it. If I want to feel peaceful today, it starts with a little play. When the little girl inside me is laughing with delight, just like my client the other day, you know it's going to be a great day.

Photo above found at:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Selling Myself Short?

I have really had the strangest dreams lately. My husband says to me, "Oh, God, do I really have to hear about your dreams?" The concept of dreams having meaning seems like a foolish one to him. I, however, believe strongly that most of our dreams are not just refuse from the day. They actually are telling us something! I believe our subconscious minds pick up images, words, non-verbal cues, and all sorts of juicy tidbits from the day that the conscious mind is either too busy or too defended to really see. Then at night, the subconscious pieces together the images and clues into a story that often seems nonsensical. Perhaps my husband thinks this is crazy, but I just happen to have generations of brilliant psychoanalysts who agree with me on this... so there. I guess you can imagine what the arguments around my house sound like, poor hubby.

Back to my VERY fascinating dream... so, I dream I am back in the home I grew up in. I'm an adult living back at home with Mom and I'm growing hundreds of tomatoes (FYI, any time you're dreaming about your childhood home or family of origin... pay close attention). I simply grow these hundreds of tomatoes and most of them rot on the vine. I'm doing nothing meaningful with them apart from just growing them. I will occasionally enjoy a few of the tomatoes for myself, but there are just so many of them that most of them go to waste. One day, in the dream, I realize, "Hey, I should really be doing something with all these tomatoes. These are really gorgeous, and there are people who would probably like to have them." So, I decide to sell them to a local woman at a farmer's market. She re-sells the tomatoes and we split the profit. I go into the yard and am struck by how many of these darned tomatoes I actually have. I begin plucking them from the vines and realize they are real gems. Some are fat and deep red, others are smaller and perfect. They vary in shade and size, but they all seem wonderful to me. I gather several bags and go inside the house and declare my intentions to my Mom who says, "Why would you do something like that? You could take those tomatoes straight to people yourself and not have to split the profit! Lots of people would buy those from you." I get very angry at her criticism and reiterate the fact that I WANT to sell them to the lady at the farmer's market.

As I'm gathering the tomatoes, I recognize there is one really exotic kind growing in the yard. In my dream, I call them black cherry tomatoes. They are so deep red they actually look black. They are bursting with flavor and so beautiful. I know they lady at the farmer's market will be excited about the opportunity to sell these. I take her my produce and she is, in fact, very excited at what I've brought. When she sees the black cherry tomatoes, however, she seems a little reluctant and is just examining them. I am marveling at their beauty and say, "They're amazing, aren't they?" She hesitates and just says, "Well... I don't know if anyone will really be interested in these." She estimates her profits and pays me. I leave feeling a little let-down and thinking maybe my Mom was right.

So, that's the dream and it has stuck with me for days. Out of curiosity, I googled black cherry tomatoes this morning and discovered that this is an actual tomato. This is what they look like in reality, beautiful, huh?

I think it's difficult for me to interpret my own dreams, because my own conscious mind will filter out some of the obvious interpretations. On the surface of things though, I think the dream is a reflection of the growth I have done in the past several years. I have actually become productive at work and at home. I have done tons of self-exploration and worked hard to address some character flaws and personal issues. Maybe for the first time in my life, I look around and see real fruit-- enough fruit to actually feed someone other than myself! The only problem is where and how to do that, I guess. I'm not real sure about that black cherry tomato. In the dream, I got the feeling that the tomato was so odd that it actually put people off. Now that I think about it, I can see how that's happening too in my reality! I'm open to your interpretations. I sense this dream is an important one to me.

And should you come to my website and see "Get to the Inside: a psychotherapist's spiritual blend of psychology and agriculture," don't be surprised... I'm just saying.

Top photo found here: