The sadness in the hat. A case study.

August 12th, 2020

 

Today I would like to share a case study with you that demonstrates how I work with embodiment/movement in my practice. It shows how easily something that seems layered and complex can be (at least partially) resolved by bringing it into your body, into the felt sense.

I am working with a man in his early sixties. He looks a lot younger than his age and appears very healthy and fit; yet he seems troubled and weighed down.

He complains about neck pain, sleep problems and troubles with swallowing.

He lost his mother, to whom he was very close, 18 months ago and he is currently looking after his nearly 90 year old father. He says he feels okay with that, but that he also feels as if his own life has been swallowed up(!). Sometimes he wishes that his father would die, because he can’t cope with this feeling that his own life seems to disappear whilst he is in it.

Whilst we are talking, I notice that there is a lot of nervous energy, biting of finger nails, twitching, swallowing hard as if he tries to swallow a large rubber ball that simply won’t go away. I sense a very sensitive boy within this mature and very robust looking man. The boy within is overwhelmed with the responsibility that he thought he had escaped when he had left home a long time ago. Further, he is confronted with his own aging and all that this intense, at times frightening and confusing passage of life offers: Dis-orientation, unexamined themes returning, questions of identity and self worth…

He says: “I feel lost, I feel angry and aggressive with others…. I am looking for somewhere to hang my hat!” The last sentence contains an energy of fear, pressure, hurry. It induces further desperation, since he obviously hasn’t found a place, where he can ‘hang his hat’ yet.

I get up and mime this with my whole body – the action of ‘ I am looking for somewhere to hang my hat’.  My body is tense, fast, looking here, there, right, left, right, left….searching…….He watches me and then says: ” I wanna do it!”

He moves slower than me. His whole body is tense, yet showing an insecure sway in the hips and  an insecure stance in the feet. There is lots of  tense and fast eye movement though. Looking, searching. His eyes are all over the place, all the time. In one hand he is holding the imaginary hat. The fist holding the hat is tight like a boxer’s before throwing his last punch.

I ask: ” What happens if you allow your eyes to stop roaming the room looking for a hook to hang your hat on?”

His eyes pause, with the rest of the body remaining tense and swaying. The swaying is an attempt to escape. To get rid of something invisible. I guide his attention to the fact that the rest of his body hasn’t paused. He stops moving completely.

The energy that was previously dissipated into small, yet non-concrete movements, the nervous twitching and the swallowing now remains within.

His whole body-being looks now utterly! distressed, swollen somehow, swelling. His head hanging heavy as if weighed down by lead. Rigid. As if he might implode into a thousand pieces any minute; yet there is none of the previous nervous energy.

Suddenly he calls out: ” But I wanna get rid of what is IN the hat!!!”                  

The sentence comes shooting out like a loud desperate call that even seems to surprise himself! (New insight!)

“What is in the hat?” I ask softly, after a while.

“Sadness”. He starts to cry softly, but continuously, his chin wobbling. The energetic swelling reducing. Pain is still visible, but his body is calming.

I give him lots of time and space, but am gently encouraging to allow all the sensations and feelings present. It is a hard process for a man to show himself this vulnerable in front of an other person. Men of a certain generation have often though not always experienced beatings as part of their ‘parental education’; the less they cried the less beatings they had to endure…nothing more needs to be said.

A big release occurred here that will be anchored, because he experienced this with his whole being.

It often happens that people are asking me: “But how do I get out of this, out of here? I don’t wanna be in this!!!?

The truth is: You get out, by getting really INTO IT.  There is no shortcut for this journey. If we try to suppress it or escape, the symptoms will simply get louder and louder.