Tangled Up With the Past

I was working with a client in his home. He seemed generally down about his life in general. He spoke in a monotone. He moved kind of slowly. He sighed a lot. We were sitting on his living room floor going through his CDs. He was having a hard time deciding what he liked and didn't like anymore. I figured whatever was going on didn't have to do with what we were working on. I asked him questions about his life. He revealed that his father had died a few years back and he inherited his things. He'd had a turbulent relationship with his father. They were constantly at odds. The things he inherited were in a storage locker a few miles from his home. I stood up and said, "Let's go to your storage space." He didn't want to go. He hadn't been to visit the space in two years. I told hi it would help him feel better. He hesitatingly agreed. We drove over.

The storage locker was filled. I grabbed the first item. It was an old suitcase. It was beat-up and musty. I opened it and it was some of his dad's old clothes. They had an old smell to them. He checked out emotionally. It felt like a part of him would die to keep from feeling any feeling his associated with his dad. I held up the pants to him. They were too big. I said, "How about these? Would you buy them if we were at the Gap today? 20% off manager's special!" He laughed. He said no. I went through the rest of the clothes that way. He started to loosen up. He let go of all of it.

I said, "How about the suitcase?" He checked out again. I asked him if his dad traveled much. He said that his dad was on the road a lot when he was a kid. I asked him how he felt when his dad was gone. He said that he wished his dad had taken him with him. He also relished the times when his dad was gone because things were more peaceful at home. There was a lot of turbulence going on in him. I said, "Your dad took a part of you with him when he died. That's too bad because you're actually still alive. I can tell because I can see you breathing. Hanging onto these things keeps part of you dead. There is a lot of you tangled up in the past with the relationship you had with your dad. It feels like part of you is still fighting with him even though he's dead. It would be nice to have you back. Can we let the suitcase go?" He agreed.

We went through the rest of the stuff with this new attitude. I think he understood that he couldn't do anything about the events of the past. His openness to wanting to feel better now gave him the clarity to decide in his favor.