I was due to see this particular client for the first time and she arrived a few minutes early following another clients’ session. I had perhaps not had the time to “ready myself” and my space to welcome her as I like to. I was working from my home office, so there was no waiting room or receptionist and so I went to open the door.
As I welcomed her, took her coat and waited as she removed her shoes, I did my best to stay with myself and centre. A new client, an unknown human being in my space (at the time also my home) was always an event to adjust to in my system and an exciting encounter. Who was this human being and how could I help her?
I got us each a glass of water and invited her upstairs to my healing room.
As we took our seats for an in-take interview, I asked her what had brought her here. I sensed some prickles and an aloofness about her, her dark eyes intense and her frame a little tense, chin up, slightly forward. Hesitation. A slight frown. I breathed deeply and focused on bringing my energy down to the ground, making it safer both for me and her. I softened my voice: “Please speak freely, I am here to listen, this session is for you”.
She looked into my eyes as if searching for confirmation that I meant what I said and spoke:
“I expected you to be warmer. From your client testimonials on your website. You are a little cold.”
Breathe. It felt like an accusation and I could and wanted to acknowledge her feeling of … disappointment?
“I am sorry, I was not expecting you so soon and was still preparing for your arrival. How can I put you at ease?”
“I am going to share personal things with you, I want to know something about you too…” she said this defiantly and with a little hope in her eyes.
Was I going to live up to her expectations?
“Of course, that makes sense”, I replied. “What would you like to know?”
“What got you into this work? I mean why are you doing this?” she asked.
I explained a little about my challenges with my daughter and how over a decade ago, as a mother of two, I had felt overwhelmed and often inadequate and how I had wanted to find a way to be present with myself and my kids in a loving way when instead I was feeling stressed and uncomfortable with my own feelings resulting in me confusing the feelings with my kids; I wanted to push away or run away rather than feel the way I was feeling.
“Ok… uh, thank-you” she said a little taken aback by my willingness to state unpleasant truths. “uh, how is your daughter now?”
“She is well, and our relationship has improved a lot. We have good days and more challenging days but mostly I am in a happier space with her and I feel I am a better mother now. Much less pushing away for sure and we can talk about our feelings and re-do things sometimes if we get of track. I feel much less overwhelmed too. ”
I gave the words some space. She looked at me, evaluating the situation.
“Is there anything else you would like to know?” I asked.
“No… ok. We can go ahead now.”
And that was the beginning of our new relationship.
I write about this because, this client, in no uncertain terms, called my attention to my state of being as I welcomed her at my door slightly unprepared, not as warm as she had expected me to be, no matter that she was early. Granted also, she was a little gruff and testing but I understood her need to know whose hands she was in. As a matter of fact, she was mirroring very accurately the sense I get sometimes when a stranger comes into my practice for the first time. I totally respect her wanting to ascertain whether or not she was going to be held in safety. And I honour that need for safety in all of us. Without that, no healing can happen.
I realized I had just met a younger part of her and this aspect was not doubt a driving force in her life. What a gift that she had showed up from day one already telling me that I needed to be ready for her even when I was not, that she needed to feel safe and a warm welcome even in times when she was aloof.
Over the years, I have worked with clients who have wanted to know more about me personally, to make sure I had my share of issues that somehow guaranteed that I might be able to help them or understand them from a lived perspective. Some have wanted to “level the field” like my client above, feeling that they could only share with me if I shared first. However, this client was a rare experience for me. She had a clear need for safety and trust – even unconsciously – and got that need met by asking me straight up for personal information. She asked her questions and made sure I was there for her in a very real way.
However, more often than not, in the healing room and the supermarket, the dinner table or the car, many of us sit in a more passive space, expecting the the other to know what is wrong and what to do about it or expecting them to “fix it”. Our western society has praised and compensated the “no need” way, and self neglect has been elevated to an enviable quality.
Needs get dismissed and pushed under the carpet all the time, in fact many of us have become proud of our “no needs, what needs?” ways.
It’s a fact many of us have a hard time identifying our needs let alone communicating them or meeting them a lot of the time.
So why do we need to know about our needs? Read on here…
And what about the strategies we use to get our needs met? Stay tuned for more on that soon…