03 May The Art Of Presence
You are with someone you love but that person is starting to get riled. You can feel the emotional tension rising. They are talking faster and faster, at a higher pitch level, and there is frustration painted on every corner of their face. You are fairly certain that there is not much in this moment you can say or do that will help but you know what you want to do. You want to escape as quickly as possible. The other option seems to be to jump in there, admit that something they said hit a button, and join the back and forth that leads to no place good. So you take a moment to stare at your shoes as you formulate a plan. Sound familiar?
In therapy, I deal with people with all sorts of issues including people who deal with people with all sorts of issues. For example, I have many wonderful clients who valiantly battle the power of bi-polar disorder, borderline personality disorder, anxiety disorder, and so on. Many other clients are the loved ones of those who are dealing with these same disorders. In the later case, a lot of what I do comes under the heading of psycho-education.
One of the main things I try to teach to this second group is what I call the Art of Presence. This means learning how to stay present and engaged without jumping totally onto the rocket that is trying to launch. There are many reasons why this is an important skill for them to master. The most important one is that the person who is struggling NEEDS their loved one to neither abandon them at this difficult moment nor encourage them to escalate further.
Like many things I write about on this blog, I think that the Art of Presence is something that we all need to practice doing from time to time. Yes, it’s hard and yes, it feels like swimming in shark infested waters but trust me when I tell you that there are moments that people you love dearly need exactly that. They need you to stay. They need you to be engaged. They need you to remain calm and loving. They need you to remain present. Yes, it’s a bit of an art but with caring, practice, and perseverance it is an art you can begin to master.