Why Can't I Draw?
[This is the story of a man who told me he had always felt he was "not as good as others." We completed this work in one session. The work involved all three styles of emergence therapy: visual dialogue, a "P" Curve, and direct emergence.]
This is Kevin's story. At the time he and I did the "P" Curve you see above, Kevin was 47 and one of the most successful client's I have ever had. Successful in the business sense? Yes. In fact, during the course of our work, Kevin founded and successfully built up his own company, a business he had dreamt of for years and one focused mainly on services for children. More important, though, when I think of success and Kevin, I think of Kevin's work on himself and his personal growth. Kevin's work was of the highest level. Even so, as we sat together and began the session that day, I had no idea the how profoundly important and life changing his session would be. I only knew we would do good work.
Most times, the way I begin a session is to start with some small detail with which the person walks in, often something so small neither of us recognizes it as having had much impact at all. This is exactly what happened with Kevin that day although to be honest, I can't recall exactly which detail it was that got us on the subject of drawing. No matter. We began there.
Please note that despite the presence of the "P" Curve above, we actually began the session by doing visual dialogue, in this case, in and around being creative. At the time, I was in a writing frenzy, one of those immensely tiring but profoundly rewarding periods in which things just pour out of me. Somehow, we had gone from my creativity and writing to Kevin's difficulty creating things. From there, it was a short hop to the scene which opened the door.
"Mary Alice Patterson," Kevin blurted out. "I remember a scene in Kindergarten in which I was sitting at a table with Mary Alice Patterson."
I immediately recognized this scene as a wounding scene. How? Because as Kevin blurted this out, he exhibited the number one symptom of a BLock, "vivid recall of a painful event." Out of the blue, then, Kevin had begun to vividly picture this scene from 42 years prior. More so and in his words, he was seeing it "like it was yesterday."
We began to explore this scene. As we did, I pictured it right along with him and very quickly, details from my own life began to guide my requests for more details. Soon we were both seeing a kindergarten the scene, and we followed his scene right up to the point at which Kevin's vivid vision abruptly ended, the moment in which he got BLocked.
For a while, then, we continued exploring this BLock with the visual dialogue. Within minutes, though, I realized this scene was a big one for Kevin. Thus, wanting him to walk out with another written record for his personal manual, I asked him if we could switch to a "P" Curve.
I then began the "P" Curve, making my first scene request (note the circled number one's), "go to the scene with Mary Alice Patterson." He then began by describing the room.
"Kindergarten." "Rectangular windows to my right." "Tables arranged perpendicular to those windows." "Blackboard." "We're sitting together at a little table."
"Anyone else sitting with you?"
"No, just her and me."
"Can you see her," I asked."
"Yes." "She has reddish, auburn curly hair,"... Right after this, he had his first emergence as he said with surprise, "She's a little girl!
We continued to work this way for a while, then I momentarily took Kevin out of the scene so he could draw the floor plan of the room. Note that in the floor plan that he drew (located in the lower left hand corner of the "P" Curve), Kevin included the playground in his drawing, a detail I had not requested.
What actually had emerged when he said, "She's a little girl!"? Kevin's first experience of this scene within a time reference. What makes having this reference so important? Its importance lies in the fact that connecting a BLock to a time reference is one of the most critical things people can experience during the healing process. Why? Because a good portion of the pain they experience stems from the fact that without a time reference, they are vulnerable to reliving these painful events as if they never ended and as if they were the only moments they have ever lived through.
In essence then, a good portion of the pain in and around BLocks comes from the fact that they lack a living time reference. This means when people relive one of these painful experiences, they relive it as if it was and is the only life experience they have ever had. This then transforms the experience from what was literally a single instant in time into the experience of an enormously long and painful event.
I call the state of consciousness in which this happens, "baby time." What exactly is "baby time?"
"Baby time" is the conscious state in which all normal babies, and all children up to about age seven, and all humans reliving an injury OR falling in love, experience life. The essence of this state is that it contains no time reference to any other moment other than the present moment. This is what makes babies, and children up to about age seven, and all humans reliving an injury OR falling in love, experience their every need as if these needs and the things they are witnessing are the only things that matter and the only things that ever will matter.
Can you now see how the experience of "baby time" can make babies and young children and people reliving an injury OR falling in love so demanding and needy at times? They feel this way because in each and every case, these people experience their needs as if there is no other person with needs and no other possible moment in which their needs can be met except for the present here and now moment. Anything other than getting their needs met in this moment, then, and they simply expect to suffer for the rest of their lives.
When do people normally develop a time reference? For babies and young children, about age seven. Prior to this age and despite what at times appears to be evidence to the contrary, most children have no way to experientially grasp the idea that life events occur in an ever unfolding sequence of past, present, and future. So when they do ask you for help, and when you tell them they'll have to wait a minute, they have no way to experience this response other than as a never ending "no." Thus, on their good days, they tolerate these waits by making what in all likelihood will seem to them to be the greatest of internal efforts. On bad days, they simply loose it.
Only later in life, when they begin to develop a sense of time as a backdrop to their live events, will they develop patience. No coincidence, this age, the one on which most people learn to tell time is also the onset of the developmental stage in which we experience children as the most cooperative.
How can I be sure Kevin was experiencing this event outside of baby time here? Because he momentarily acted surprised by the fact that she was a little girl. This momentary surprise can only have resulted from the fact that Kevin prior to this emergence had no way to experience this little girl as ever having been any other age. She simply was and always would have been "Mary Alice Patterson," ageless in his inner life.
the Actual Instrument of Injury Emerges: One of Kevin's Own Thoughts
Within minutes, Kevin's first personal realization emerged as he told me, "This is the moment I realized I can't draw!"
Notice that Kevin reported this belief as if it was and still is a solid fact; the idea that he "can't draw." His painful certainty is yet another evidence that he got a BLock in this scene. How can I tell? Because yet another way to know an event contains a BLock is when people re-experience the meaning of a life event as if there were no other possible way to interpret it. In other words, you can know people have been wounded in this particular area of life if the painful conclusion they draw IS the only conclusion they can see. Here, Kevin was definitely interpreting this event as if he had experienced sure and certain evidence that the only possible meaning of the event was that he could not draw.
Notice also that the suffering involved comes not just from the painful outcomes that this belief implies, but also from the absolutely fixed interpretation, this despite the almost infinite amount of possible meanings including the obvious; he was a little boy who needed help. Here again, this amounts to a BLock Marker, in this case, the sixth to be exact, "the experience of no choice."
A third detail to notice here is the way Kevin voiced this belief. Quite obviously, he voiced it as a thought. This pretty much implies that this part of his experience was the actual "key" in that it was the last thing little Kevin must have experienced before he went into shock. How can I tell? Because prior to this point in his story, Kevin, despite several requests on my part, could picture this scene only up to but not including this thought. In fact, the surprised I saw on his face when he spoke this sentence is the very proof this thought was the actual instrument on injury, in that this thought was the exact thing he had to have been experiencing at the top of the "P" curve. (Note I would normally have written this into the "key" circle at the top of the curve. Somehow I missed doing this.)
Using the "Intuitive Variation"
Of the three types of scene requests a guide can make, the "intuitive variation" is often the most powerful. What makes this type of request so powerful? The fact that the guide is suggesting, in a very careful and gentle way, a possible variation to the original painful script. In this session, then, I made my second scene request in this form, when I asked Kevin to "see the teacher." (Note the circled number two's.)
"Young." "Thin." "Blondish hair." "Very nice." "Gentle."
At this point, I thought to myself but didn't mention to Kevin that his description, with few variations, matched his present fiancé, a woman he loves very much. Here, you see yet another example of the ever present threads which organize peoples' inner lives. No coincidences ever. These threads and the connections they create are simply a part of the way we are designed. And people who get designated as having high IQ's are simply people who, in all likelihood, have a better than average awareness of these threads.
In any event, at this point, I wanted to deepen Kevin's awareness of this scene and so, asked him, "where do you see her."
"I'm sitting outside on a bench with her." "She's to my left."
What is she wearing?" I asked.
At this point, he paused, momentarily stuck in the shock of an indecision.
"I see her in two things, slacks and a dress."
I suggested he simply pick one and he responded with, "I see her in a dress." He then added, "a flower print."
Within seconds, Kevin's next emergence occurred and he told me, "I've tried to remember what she looked like for years but never could."
Again, wanting to help Kevin to place the teacher in a time reference, I asked him, "Can you sense the difference in your physical sizes." He then tried for a bit but couldn't. I suggested he simply let go and move on, allowing this to stay BLocked.
Then Kevin's next emergence occurred which, by the way, I failed to notate with the usual yellow marker which designates responses as an emergence. Most likely, I was simply too involved in the unfolding drama to remember to note it. None the less, it stands out clearly as an emergence in that in the moment just prior to his speaking these words, I saw Kevin experience the little surprise which is the hallmark of all emergences. Then he said, "I didn't want to play with the other kids."
At this point, I asked Kevin what he was feeling from within the experience of being Kevin the little boy. He then replied, "I was in love with my teacher." He then added, "There was shame involved."
At this point, he spontaneously flipped back to the first scene (the one noted by circled number one's) and Kevin had yet another emergence: "My shame was, I wanted to be better, to please my teacher..." Then more meanings came.
"For my whole kindergarten experience, I always wanted to be dressed in my Sunday best. I didn't want to play with the other kids. I just wanted to be sitting next to her on the bench."
As I think about it now, this has to be one of the most universal experiences a little boy could ever have. I also wonder how much of men's romantic attraction gets created in experiences similar to this one.
In reality, I'll never know. Still, it seems obvious there's a powerful thread between these two kinds of life experiences.
At this point, I again felt directed to use an intuitive variation, this time to begin doing direct emergence. Just moments before, Kevin had had spontaneously returned to the drawing scene. In it, he had realized the assignment he had been given at the time: to draw a flower. He had also realized that right after his having looked over at Mary Alice Patterson's drawing and right after he saw how great hers looked compared to his, he became frozen and unable to go beyond the stem drawn on his page. Why? Because it was in this instant that his injury had occurred.
Thus, in that one painful instant, the instant in which he glanced from her drawing back to his own, Kevin became so deeply pained by the startling difference he felt between his drawing and hers that he painfully concluded he couldn't draw. This, then, was what prompted me to make the next scene request.
Doing the Direct Emergence: part one
At this point, I handed Kevin a piece of paper and a pen and asked him if he would draw a flower. Then, after a long painful pause, he began to tell me
"I just don't want to start it (drawing the flower)."
" I feel fear."
" If I don't do the first line right, the whole thing will be ruined."
"I'm afraid to draw the stem."
Here, I suggested he imagine that he at his present age come into the scene and help Kevin, the little boy.
Within minutes, Kevin had what is one of the most powerful emergences I have ever witnessed in him. He spontaneously realized a way around this BLock and said, "I just heard, 'Start with the flower.' " And with this, he drew the flower below:
Doing the Direct Emergence: part two
At this point, I continued doing the direct emergence and requested that Kevin imagine he was showing his flower to the teacher. At first he was very apprehensive, delaying his effort as long as he could. Finally, after several gentle encouragement's from me, he began to picture the scene. I then asked him if he could sense what his teacher was thinking of his drawing. Here, he experienced yet another emergence and excitedly told me, "She likes my drawing."
Please note that on the actual "P" Curve (lower left quadrant), I've written, "She genuinely likes my drawing." Also notice that the word "genuinely" is written above the original sentence. What happened here is, Kevin's original response was, "She likes my drawing," and this sentence was what voiced the little boy's experience." Moments later, the adult Kevin added his experience to the sentence by adding the word "genuinely," a word far beyond the vocabulary of a five year
Finishing the Session and Ending Thoughts
To be honest, I have no words to describe the depth of the healing I witnessed during this session. At times I imagine I am seeing in this work the kinds of scenes which represent a good portion of the learning disabilities children get, all this from momentarily painful thoughts in which the child compares his or her work to another's and gets startled by the difference.
More important, witnessing Kevin's scene has made me ask myself, how many times are teachers wrongly blamed for the injuries children get in and around learning? Certainly, the young teacher in Kevin's story never intended to wound him, and I am positive she made her request to him to draw a flower with nothing but the best of intentions. Surely, then, even the most casual of readers can see the possibilities implied here; that many if not all children's injuries in and around school can be traced back to what are simply just ordinary life moments, simple instants of time within a young child's life which, had it not have been for the child's painful interpretation, would have passed by unnoticed.
Obviously, if this story was the only story I knew like this, I would be the first to question my conclusions. But it is far from he only story I know like this. In fact, I have never seen any stories which are not like this, given the time to find the BLock. Thus, "L's" Story, the one in which I helped heal a thirty something year old woman who had exhibited a profound level of learning disability since age seven follows the same script; she got BLocked in a brief but startling painful moment in the midst of memorizing her name. And there are others.
Finally, the thought occurs to me to ask, what if children could by nature have access to a time reference in these moments? Would they never get injured?
The truth is, if this was possible, yes, these injuries would never occur, and children would never experience these painful moments let alone repeatedly re-experience them and the suffering involved. However, if people were to never be able to experience this vulnerable state, something even more painful would not occur: they would never be able to fall in love, with anything or anyone, as this state, baby time, is the only state in which falling in love occurs.
Whatever the possibilities might be, the fact is, baby time does exist in each and every child that ever was born and ever will be born. And thank God it does. Thus, despite the fact that this vulnerability will never be alleviated and so, the possibility of injury will forever be, if we who come in contact with children can keep this in mind, we can be more sensitive to children in this state and so, perhaps reduce their chances for injury.
As for how Kevin and I finished that session, we ended by my asking him to write his name on the top of the drawing, along with his age; age 5. And as we closed the session, he looked at me and said, "This is the drawing that took me forty two years to finish." My eyes fill even now as I picture his proud face.