Pile of conflicts
During exploration, me and my client try to gather all possible significant memories of their past, nightmares, recurring dreams, associated feelings and aspirations. I have found that my clients tend to pick when they are alone, bored, lost, frustrated, nervous, feeling stuck, are panicked. They tend to pick when they are done with their day's work and are preparing themselves to sleep. Some of them pick their private parts during night in deep sleep, when they are not aware of themselves. Many mothers avoid picking in front of their kids. Wives avoid picking in front of their husbands. The girls and women wear long sleeves, long trousers or skirts if their arms, legs are affected. They essentially wear make up if their face is affected. Some wear band-aids on their bruised finger tips, nails. The brides wear high neck wedding gowns with sleeves, to cover their chest and arms. Girls and women avoid swimming in skimpy swim suit in front of the crowd. Working women take refuge of bathrooms, to pick during office hours. Married women and girls avoid getting naked during sex. These simple examples show that persons "wish" to have/do a particular thing, that is normal-routine to all others and they unwillingly choose to select something else. They feel that they have limited choice. They feel very ashamed, shy, embarrassed at all public events where they have to hide their scars, scabs, fresh swollen wounds and, band aids. They get fed up justifying their odd behavior. They start feeling moody, alienated and lonely and unhappy and lost, in their gloom. Many of them on one end desperately wish to have company of friends, agemates, boyfriends, spouses; and on another end, they are afraid of their social image getting spoiled because of exposed scars. Many of them feel inferior to their siblings/friends/spouses because of picking. Few of them avoid dating, postpone getting married and, avoid sexual intimacy on the face of deep longing for intimacy. Some clients try everything under the sun to stop and control their urge to pick. They have few pick-free days and nights and sometimes weeks. They loose their guards. They start feeling better and ... one night of heavy uncontrollable picking spoils everything. After getting up in the morning, they feel very bad at the red, painful, swollen wounds and feel defeated, and dejected. Some indulge in picking. They start enjoying picking, they get a rush, feel good, get into sweet trance, temporarily feel away from all anxieties and worries and real life struggles. They call it as addiction. They also get into binge eating (too much of high-carb and salty food) and, binge shopping especially cloths. When they are done, they feel guilty of their extra weight, unnecessary expenditure while being unemployed or being in debt. They tend to buy that kind of cloths, which they feel like wearing but cannot wear for the fear of "what will people say". They store away all those cloths and feel bad at their thoughtless behavior. Underneath these, day-to-day conflicts, we find deep seated conflicts as well. They have mixed feelings about their parents, spouses, kids, job, and about themselves. Initially, they talk about how proud they are about their close ones. Then, they bring out their disappointments at the foolish / immature / childish / insensitive / controlling / manipulative behavior of their close ones. They describe how their moms and dads expect them to be perfect and flawless. Sisters and brothers talk about how their parents compared them and unconsciously instilled rivalry amongst them. They talk about family background of their parents and try to explore what made their parents the way they are. Almost all of my clients continue cursing and blaming their parents and spouses, yet, "unconsciously" behave just the same as their parents have been behaving. Clients "unknowingly" control-manipulate-yell-dominate-find faults-judge-worry-abuse and try to be perfect the way their parents expect from them. They may lose opportunities to find their occupation they could be good at. They get frustrated as they cannot please others and please themselves at the same time. Almost all of my clients shift from one pole to another. They wish to grow-mature become independent-happy and have a cool carefree life. They wish to be happy and make their close ones also happy. Majority of them overwork, get tired and feel exhausted. At the end of the day/week, they feel lost at the list of incomplete chores, messy room, messy kitchen, messy office. Some clients try to relax on weekends by sleeping for long hours getting up late in noons, indulging in alcohol, playing hard tough competitive games, doing some odd things, which are generally done by small children or fresh adolescents. Temporarily, they feel excited, have fun, feel relaxed and, feel carefree. Some visit their parents and siblings, try to bond. Once they wake up on Mondays, they feel cranky, tired, sad and listless. I compile the whole data in a particular sequence so as to note issues to work upon, during this phase of disintegration. What is disintegration? We all develop a pseudo self-image during our course of development. We feel that, that is what we are supposed to be. We have deep unrest inside us for no apparent reason. We could be having all possible things that one may require to be happy, still, we miss something vital. This conflict creates internal dissatisfaction. It leads to picking. Working on conflicts and separating pseudo image from the true self is known as disintegration. This work disintegrates brittle and dysfunctional false personality of a client. People avoid therapy or any kind of self disclosure because of fear of becoming nobody after removal of a self-made glossy cloak to fool self and the world. They develop multiple defenses to protect their false sense of integrity and safety and security. In short, whatever they think and do as right, fails to satisfy them. They feel that their future is bleak. Some feel suicidal. Some feel afraid. Some feel overwhelmed. Some feel like quitting. I tell them that this is not unusual, in fact it is expected as an unavoidable yet essential milestone in therapy. I remain gentle, supportive and encouraging. I tell them that we have a long way to go. We need to find a common thread binding all these stories. Majority of our clients believe in themselves and in their therapist. Some of them have to purchase supplemental sessions at this stage. Very few clients withdraw either temporarily or permanently for the dear of confronting their feelings about their parents and spouses, and their own unrealistic beliefs and convictions. They refuse to be independent and strong by emotionally growing as an adult. Middle age is a very difficult age to be courageous and energetic enough to challenge one's own self-defeating convictions. Sometimes, I lose all hope to see mail of my seemingly lost client, in my inbox, and move her file into the folder of incomplete work. In the morning, I get her mail. She expresses her apology and shares her problems, coming in the way of her growth. I feel very happy for her and optimistic about her getting success in being pick-free. Many a times, clients in spite of having tough financial times and emotionally overloaded status, express their wish to pay for more sessions and vouch to work till they are out of their self-created emotional mess. They respectfully decline my offer of charity. I really wonder at their integrity and strength. And we move on to find that common thread with renewed enthusiasm.