May 2014, by Cindy Vargas
“I am completely baffled, Cindy,” says Betsy as I give her a massage. “I have these 10 pounds that I can’t quite get rid of, no matter what I do.”
And of course I am thinking that I would love to have only 10 pounds to have to try to remove. But that was a momentary lapse into female envy.
She launches into a list of the things she’s done and how it just never works. Massage clients really do ask me these kinds of questions. This one in particular is a composite of questions and stories from several people that I’ve blended so that no one is trackable.
“Do you have any ideas about what I should do?” she says.
Apparently massage therapists can also divine what a person should do to magically lose 10 pounds. I scroll through all the spectacular fails I personally have had on the same subject and decide to try some tools that actually helped me.
“What’s bad about losing weight?” I ask.
She is taken aback at such a question. I’m thinking that it’s just a fun way to ask about the risks. In Shadow Work, a lot of the territory we work is about wants and risks.
After several minutes of wondering aloud about what it might cost her if she lost weight, Betsy suddenly realizes that her daughter always wants to have a snack with her before going to bed. And it’s always strawberry ice cream. Her daughter is about to graduate from high school and soon Betsy will have an empty nest. And then it was like the light came on.
“I don’t want to lose that time with her, and I feel like such a party pooper if I don’t join her.”
I’m thinking, “That was easy”. But after a little bit, she pops out with, “But my body sort of aches and bothers me. I don’t feel at ease. My doctor says that there’s nothing wrong with me, but I just don’t feel comfortable.”
It’s not my job to diagnose things for people, and most people don’t like to be reminded that their age might have something to do with the aches, so I’m thinking she’s probably asking for some other kind of help. Like a story.
IN THE KINGDOM
“How about if you imagine a kingdom,” I say. And we start the process of developing what the kingdom in her internal world looks like. After that unfolds, I say, “So now, if you could imagine your body exactly how you’ve described it to me, as a character or a thing in this kingdom, who or what would it be?”
For Shadow Work® facilitators, this is a way to get a part out. Cliff Barry has told me that he often uses his own body aches and pains as sources of information by creating the parts that they play and getting the messages from them. It’s a very useful tool.
“For some silly reason, I see a jester,” she says.
“What’s he or she like?” I say.
“He’s all dressed up and ready to perform.”
“Where is he and what is he doing?”
“He’s locked up in the stable. And he’s banging on the walls, but nobody comes to let him out.”
“How does he feel about that?”
“Sad. Dejected. Like nobody loves him or is delighted to see him.” She muses for a bit. “He just wants some attention.”
“Who does he want to give him attention?” I ask.
“Where’s the Queen?”
“She’s up in a tower looking over the land. She’s a really nice queen and she loves her people.”
“Does she know about the jester being locked up in the stable?”
“No. She doesn’t.”
“So who does?”
“The butler does.”
“Do the Queen and the butler talk?”
“So now that you know that the jester is sad and dejected in the stable, and that the Queen doesn’t realize it but the butler knows, what do you want to have happen to the jester?”
THE BIG WANT
“The butler needs to tell the Queen, and the Queen will send for the jester and ask him to perform for her and the royal family, and she will clap for him and tell him she does care about him and not let him get locked up anymore.” She continues this description of what she sees happening in her mind and doesn’t realize that tears are slipping down her face.
“I haven’t loved my body very much, you know.”
“I hear you,” I say.
“And all it wants is for me to pay attention to it and love it.”
And so ends the massage session with her decision to take an Epsom salts bath with essential oils and to drink more water. I might have suggested that option but she was listening to the jester and thought it up for herself.
There are lots of ways to think about a jester wanting attention and delight and what it says to a person about what her body might need. But the real gain was what Betsy wanted and needed for herself; not what I might see would be a good plan. And if she wants to explore the story further, she can ask herself who in the kingdom might have wanted to lock the jester up and why. Fun thoughts like that.
This story is somewhat true and somewhat fiction. Like most stories. The human imagination is astonishing, and I’ve had a parade of kings, queens, children, dragons, lethal mists, bunnies, magicians, cloaked dark men, talking trees, scribes, birds, scrolls, quicksand, a blue womb and Gandalf, cross my story line and my massage table. And now I’ve met a jester who wants attention.
Makes sense to me.
Cindy Vargas is a Certified Shadow Work® Coach, Certified Shadow Work® Group Facilitator, and Licensed Massage Therapist in Phoenix, Arizona. Read more about Cindy.
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