In group, and she looks exhausted, pinched and pale.
She’s talking about how hard she’s been working, and all the people she worries about and takes care of.
And I’m getting angry.
“I have feedback,” I tell her.
She looks surprised. Feedback is a statement of personal feelings, and I don’t usually give those.
“Here goes,” I say. “When you (A) talk about all these people you care about and take care of, I (B) get mad, because (C) you’re breaking my Three Commandments.”
She looks puzzled.
“I know,” I say. “I didn’t know I had Three Commandments either. But apparently I do, because I find myself mad at you for breaking them.”
She smiles. “What are they?”
“What I usually talk about,” I say. “And everything we work on in group:
1. You must respect your feelings.
2. You must listen to your body.
3. You must collect relationships that feed you, not deplete you.”
“Yes,” she sighs. “Sounds familiar.”
“She’s breaking all three, right?” another member asks.
“I think so. She certainly looks like someone who is.”
“What do I look like?” she asks.
“Like someone to whom self-care is an alien concept. Who’s so caught up in trying to control people, places and things that she’s running on empty. And doesn’t realize it. And needs people who love her to tell her to stop.”
“Stop,” says another member.
“Please,” says another.
She smiles sadly. “I’m not sure I know how.”
“That’s okay,” I say. “We’ll help. The most important thing now is wanting to stop.
“Everyone who comes into therapy needs to learn these commandments,” I say. “It’s hard at first, because most of us were trained to believe exactly the opposite: Disrespect your feelings, ignore your body, and Lose yourself in relationships.
“But those who learn them, and can obey them at least some of the time, always end up feeling better.”
“Always?” she asks.
“Always,” I say. “It’s as close to a guarantee as you’ll get in therapy.”