Saturday, October 25, 2014

Asking for help (the hard way)

Some days I come home from work feeling as if my clients all hate me.

Now don't all jump in with the "oh, come on, they don't hate you! Why do you insist on seeing yourself that way? They appreciate you, why would you say such a thing?!" comments. 

Because that would be missing the point.

The things is: it was hard being a music therapist today. And, yes, I did (and always do) say to myself, "oh, come on, they probably don't hate you. Well, maybe they do, but probably it's not really about you." 

Here's what I'm thinking (hoping) (thinking and sooort of hoping, because, really, it's not a great thing to hope): I'm thinking my clients absorb so. Much. Hate. Every. Single. Day. And here I come in, Ms. Gosh-I'm-so-glad-to-be-here-guys-let's-listen-to-each-other-and-see-what-we-can-hear-in-each-other's-music. And there's crying and yelling and toileting accidents and more yelling and more crying and running around and trying to run out the door and handing me my guitar case and climbing on things and hitting each other and pulling and pushing and more toileting accidents.

And we sing, and we play about it, and we stop to get people cleaned up. Okay, well, usually I'm the one playing about it and singing about it, because my clients don't really use speech, and they are often too busy being overwhelmed. And I put it out there, "I know things have been really difficult for you, and it's a lot to cope with all the time." 

And I feel inadequate. I feel like one of those teeny little bandaids that keep falling off. My words and my music hardly cover any one of my clients' deep wounds. And I try to remind myself, "this is what chronic trauma and chronic grief look like. What can I offer in the music, in my words, in my presence? Will it mean anything?" 

Thanks to juliaf for the image!
Then I start in with the whole internal drama of "What if I'm just making assumptions? What if they just think I'm being a pain in the ass? And wrong? What if they wish I wouldn't come because I just remind them of what sucks in their lives and then I'm standing there singing and talking about it and happy to see them, for God's sake?"

So there I was driving myself home (and crazy) today, feeling kind of crappy. And I reminded myself of how much hatred my clients have internalized. How there's nowhere for it to...go! I mean, it just...sits there and festers in them. And my acknowledging it and hearing it is probably new and unexpected. And uncomfortable. 

Listening to the hatred many autistic people (especially those who live in congregate care) have been asked to hold over and over again is plain intense. And I leave sessions feeling as if my clients hate me.

Actually, though, after the initial "oh, woe is me" phase, I do manage to realize, "um, this is countertransference." And I start to wonder if what's really happening is that my clients are asking me to help them - to help them cope with the hatred they're having a hard time metabolizing. In their own way, I think they're asking me to hold on to the hate, to figure out what to do with it, say it out loud for them, and help them find a way to make sense of it. 

And the only way they can ask for that help is to get me to a point where I feel as if they hate me. And I have to be able to experience that awfulness. That terrible "nothing I do has any effect on you, I feel as if I have no power over my life" feeling.

Because until I've fully gone through the pain and rejection with them, they don't know that I've heard them. And until I go through it I don't know how they're feeling.

Next week, I will go back to them. I will sing about it, and I will say it out loud and give it a voice in the music. And hopefully the relationship will grow just a little deeper. Because I allowed myself to feel as if they hate me.

This is one of the songs that came up in the session.