Unconditional Loving Presence

Joyful Balance Counseling Rafia Rebeck Introducing Wali

First things first . . . an introduction to Wali, the gentle, sweet Boston Terrier who recently entered my life and my private practice.  Wali is an Arabic word that invokes the divine quality of friendship, and Wali is truly a lovely friend.  Animals lend an extraordinary presence to the therapy process, and while their unique gifts vary, animals are wonderful teachers.

What I have noticed most is the opening that Wali creates in the areas of boundaries and needs.  Wali is a friendly dog who likes to greet clients when they arrive, allowing them to either meet his greeting or to set a boundary and let him know they would like to have space.  Likewise, Wali sometimes gets overstimulated and will retreat to his bed to give himself some space.  Animals invite us to get curious . . . how do we let others know when we want them to come close, and how do we let them know when we’d like to be left alone?  . . . how do we feel about setting boundaries?  . . . how do we feel when our boundaries are crossed?

Wali is also very good at asking for what he needs / wants (usually to be pet and snuggled).  He models a form of shameless request, making his desire known and either gracefully receiving pets and snuggles, or moving onto other things (if petting / snuggling are not being offered).

And while I love these opportunities for exploring boundaries and needs, what I most appreciate about Wali is his unconditional loving presence.  At the heart of all good therapy is kindness and presence, and Wali embodies these qualities.  For clients who love dogs, Wali is a warm blanket across their laps, welcoming the totality of their experience.  For others, he offers moments of comic relief and sweetness.  I am honored to be folding him into the world of Joyful Balance, and am relishing all of the joyful balance that he naturally brings.

Beyond Boundaries: A Treatise on Truthfulness

boundary cat

 

I am an advocate for boundaries as an aspect of healthy relationship with self and others.  A healthy “no” is a strong step in the direction of discovering where “I” end and “other” begins.  At the same time, I notice how setting boundaries can sometimes feel like being split in two ~ as if I have to choose between the part of myself that wants connection and the part of myself that wants separateness.  It can feel like an either/or proposition ~ defensive, divided, and downright terrifying.

I want to suggest a shift away from the narrative of boundary setting, to a narrative of relational honesty ~ rich, radical, loving honesty ~ with myself and with the world, about who I am, what I feel, what I need, what I value, and how I long to relate.  If my focus is on setting boundaries, I can feel so separate from you or the world that I forget we are both simply human beings, doing the best we can in any given moment. I can forget that I actually want to connect, to be included, to feel a part of.  In setting boundaries, I can become overly focused on keeping you out, protecting myself, only to find myself alone inside of my experience.

By contrast, radical honesty invites me to stay in full awareness of my experience and to use this awareness as a bridge for connection with you and with the world.  Because only when we are fully honest with ourselves about our own experiences ~ and only when we venture to share this truth with others ~ can we come into real relationship.  This is not a call to forego boundaries, but rather an invitation into a paradigm of truthfulness and sincerity, where “No” is still a complete sentence ~ but one that keeps us feeling whole and connected.