Below are some composites of clients I've worked with in the past. Please note that names have been changed, and each story borrows elements from more than one client to preserve their privacy.
I worked with Lily for 12 months. Lily was an independent professional woman in her 30’s. She was separated and the sole provider for her 7 year old daughter. All of Lily’s relationships felt disappointing to her (family, partners, work). She felt alone and very often sad and discouraged at the course her life had taken. She loved her daughter but the daughter was a bit troublesome at home and school and often Lily felt at the end of her rope, especially after a long day at work. Lily’s parents helped with child care but demanded a great deal in return and the relationship with mom was especially challenging when mom made decisions about parenting completely in contradiction to how Lily wanted to parent. Lily was in an unsatisfying intimate relationship. She was both over committed and under-valued at work. Lily felt so down she wondered if she was experiencing a severe depression.
After speaking with Lily it became clear that Lily was discouraged because she felt trapped and highly discontent with a life, that from the outside, seemed pretty decent. She saw her dreams disappearing. She felt constantly stressed, resentful and never slept well. She was unhappy with her appearance. Lily courageously made a serious commitment to go on a journey to re-envision and take charge of her life.
We began by exploring what Lily liked and disliked about her life and relationships right then. What was keeping her up at night? We talked a great deal about her dreams. I love hearing about dreams, about what individuals are chasing in their life. We looked at her unique strengths – there were many – and a little of how she undervalued herself. And together we navigated her path from discontent to satisfaction and meaning.
At the end of our work together Lily said she felt ‘peaceful’ and actually happy. She was no longer fearful of say no or … of saying ‘yes!’. Her relationship with her daughter was closer and in fact her daughter’s school performance had improved. Lily set limits with her mom and actually had a less tense relationship. She was no longer feeling depressed. She knew she had a ways to go but she now had the tools and the belief in herself to walk the path. About a year after our work was complete, I received an invitation to Lily’s wedding and a beautiful note thanking me not only for the ways I challenged her behaviour and beliefs, but also for my steadfast belief in her until she could believe in herself. She said, "when I wanted to give up or said, 'I think I’m done', you said 'just hang in a bit. Change is hard and can take time. Be easy on yourself.'"
Elizabeth’s story was a little different. Elizabeth had made it through a really tough time by focusing on what needed to be done each day, each week. She made lists and checked everything off. People thought she was amazing; they admired her – and indeed how she coped was impressive. But when the really tough time was over (and it took several years) she realized she was nowhere she wanted to be. She had a bunch of solid unconnected accomplishments that added up to nothing that gave her lasting happiness, satisfaction or a life worth living. Why? I’m sure you can guess! She was stuck in zoom in and had no bigger picture to guide her to a bigger future. She knew this and the realization was painful.
Elizabeth wanted to explore a part of herself she had ignored, a part she felt would give her a greater sense of wholeness and less discontent. Her dreams had not quite articulated themselves and frequently got benched by the demands of others and responsibilities. Elizabeth was a bit impatient and chose the Quick Start option of three phone sessions with some between session support through email and short ‘emergency’ calls. She had many financial commitments so we figured out a way for her extended medical benefits to provide the funding for her work. We started with developing her dream (the unsung song) and chose one part to focus on, we spent a session on how she got in the way of her dream, and ended with a plan around one aspect of that dream. Elizabeth worked hard between sessions and chose to have a session every three weeks.
At the end of our work Elizabeth had made a few very critical changes in how she kept her vision squarely out front as the anchor for decisions and commitments. She felt in charge of her process and had taken some concrete steps towards re-envisioning herself. She told me she especially appreciated the intensity and accountability of the approach and especially found the structured home practice and worksheets helpful.
Joan was intelligent, wise, hard working and creative - all the characteristics we believe lead to happiness and success. Yet she remained unfulfilled and dissatisfied, always thinking this is it, this is the magic moment, this is the key - the next job, the next relationship, the next diet, the next project. Joan was stuck in a murky unworkable vision that was full of over large thoughts and desires that could never quite turn into reality. She ran – yes frantically ran from bright shiny object to bright shiny object. She tried every diet including some very scary ones but she never actually sustained any weight loss. She felt profoundly disappointed, sometimes resentful. There was always another project another opportunity. Joan saw my brochure and became intrigued – I guess I was the new shiny object. One of the first things we did was pause in one place and talk about the dream she was pursuing.
She wasn’t even clear on that at first so we took time and as I listened and got curious I saw the dream transform itself into a budding vision. We also talked a lot about what happened to that vision as she entered it. Bottom line, Joan got discouraged when the initial brightness dimmed. We talked about how she could keep her vision sparkling enough to take her through the drudgery of change. Joan you see is a sprinter – fast start and quick finish – all energy for short bursts. At the end of our work, Joan went away with a whole bucket of tools and tricks to increase endurance. By the way she has firmly maintained a recent weight loss.