Many people are burdened with a heavy sense of responsibility and guilt from their childhood. It reduces both productivity and happiness while making inner peace impossible. Both parental voices and conscience often conspire to make an alternative view of life almost impossible. In this interview Katherine puts herself in touch with a perspective that is not stuck in the Drama Triangle and is free from the scripting of her childhood. Her challenge is first to listen and secondly to change a temporary awakening into an ongoing view of her life and herself that heals, balances, and transforms.
As you read Kathrine’s issues, notice how common they are. Perhaps you share some of them. As you read this interview, imagine that you are Katherine and it is for you.
“My three fundamental life issues are first my relationship with Kevin. Rubin (my therapist) has worked out that my husband Kevin expects gratitude and I expect that I should be responsible for everything.”
“Secondly, my grown son has Hodgkin/s cancer and I feel responsible for it. I feel guilty. If I had gotten across to him what I am doing with my testing methods he would have gotten diagnosed earlier.”
“Third, my general feelings of guilt. This is my third marriage. It’s enough to make me feel guilty toward my children. The first man I left. My son was five, the same age his daughter now is. That marriage was like a brother. The second was my great love. From this relationship came my 27 year old daughter. After 16 years my third husband left me for a younger woman and started all over again. It was terrible. I made it terrible for myself. It was a war getting apart. I felt guilty. I thought I had left my first child without a father. The second marriage I wanted to fight so my daughter would have a daughter, but I failed. It always gives me this feeling that I have not managed. My life revolves around guilt toward my children. My mother said she can help everybody else but not us, the ones that should matter the most. I feel I can’t give to those I love; I can’t give them what they need. I’m a failure! Kevin also says I don’t help him. When I make suggestions he will not listen and take my advice. The only safe place in my world is with my clients but it’s not where my heart is.”
Guilt was Katrin’s strongest life issue; the guilt transformed into an octopus.
Octopus: “I do everything and nothing. With each arm I do something….I’m inside Katherine and I express myself through her arms. I am in her chest and I come out of her arms. I see everything and I do everything but I need Kathrin’s support to do what I want to do. I’m interested in so many things…She doesn’t get it together often. I have a great view over everything and I have my arms. I can do multi-tasking. I feel good but I am kind of locked in. I don’t really have the freedom to do what I want to do in here. She only has two arms…I’m pushing her to use more of my arms. Actually, it’s quite nice to be resting in here and be carried around. I’m like her command station. I am Katrin’s aliveness!”
“I have a lot of advantages staying here but I’m not mobile enough. I’d need a car! I’m a lazy one; like being carried around. I want a convertible! I want to see a lot! I want to drive to the ocean where I will lie in the sun and go swimming! It’s beautiful! I also feel carried by the ocean!”
Transformed Octopus, now in the ocean: “I score myself ten in confidence because the ocean is my home! I am a nine in compassion and an eight in wisdom because I’m independent, free, and old. I am wise! I am a nine in acceptance and inner peace, because I definitely have more than Kathrin, and more freedom too! I am a nine in witnessing because I am free of the concerns of others!”
Transformed Octopus: “If I scored all tens I wouldn’t be different and I wouldn’t want to be different! If Kathrin scored like I do she wouldn’t be thinking so much! She would be more like me, letting the others swim past her. Maybe she would watch out if something really big happens, but otherwise, just be there. She would definitely have more time. She could work the way I do, be very efficient and do many things at the same time. She could have an overview of her life.”
“If I only had two hands like she does I would ask others for help. I would distribute the work! Then she would be able to rest in between and she wouldn’t have a bad conscience if she draws back to rest for a few minutes. I don’t have a bad conscience! What a concept! Why should I have a bad conscience! The ocean is big and everyone has its space! I don’t feel guilt! What’s that????? (Laughing!) If she felt like me, she could probably manage with two arms what I do with eight! It would all be much easier because she wouldn’t be wasting energy on feeling guilty!”
“Regarding her feeling responsible for everything, I don’t feel that way at all! There is no difference between us. I don’t know what this is all good for. She gets a bad conscience when she does something just for herself, as if she was caught. I would swim with her in the bathtub because she feels someone will accuse her of being useless and doing nothing. She even has a bad conscience imagining that she is me right now! She has started making plans for free time but she doesn’t put her plans into practice. She has to apologize! I don’t ever apologize for taking care of myself! I don’t hesitate to put my plans into practice! But I change my plans and don’t worry about it!”
“Regarding her son’s illness, I would feel compassion, but I don’t know what God’s plans are. If it were my son I would have to accept his condition. If I were just compassionate he would be able to feel my wisdom, compassion, and acceptance. He would then ask me for advice.”
“Regarding her feeling she can help everyone but her family, if I were her I would feel less compassion and more distance toward her family. She lacks the confidence the ones close to her could take better care of themselves and don’t need her so much. If she could just be there and wait until these people come to her she wouldn’t have to worry about them all the time. It would practically mean that she would have more time for herself. She wouldn’t need to think about them all the time.”
“If I were here I would concentrate on learning and doing what she is doing and learning. But she always distracted herself from them. I wouldn’t allow that to happen. That’s the most important thing! If she became me and didn’t allow herself to be distracted by her worries and feelings of guilt and responsibility then she would become so good at what she does she wouldn’t have to run after the others offering help; they would come to her when they need help.”
“I would spend a lot more time out in nature, outside the house! I would go swimming, nip into Schlachtensee. I wouldn’t let these feelings of responsibility keep me from being in nature!”
“I would look after my own health better instead of focusing on the health of others. I wouldn’t let others tell me what is and not good for me. She knows what’s good for her. Why doesn’t she listen to herself.”
“I am here today because she really needed to listen to me! I would have BURST if I hadn’t come here today! I would have exploded! She would have blue royal blood because mine is blue!”
It’s important that she takes me swimming! I want her to take me into the bathtub and stay in there at least an hour with nice music at least once in her life! If she does it once she might start liking it! Also have a glass of champagne! If Kevin comes and says, “Don’t you have anything better to do than sitting in this bathtub and doing nothing?” I would offer him a glass of champagne. Also when she wants to feel carried by the water, not having to work hard to stay up, when it’s about accepting others fully for swimming different paths, and when she needs vigilance for real dangers. I wish that she would experience that feeling of being carried and being one being amongst others in this ocean. It’s easy for me to accept myself and accept others. I can do a lot and I’m very efficient with all my arms. I do what I want with my arms. I’m very aware and awake! I am a special octopus because I am a RED octopus!”
“What I heard this octopus say was that he does a lot but still has inner peace. He lets others be the way they are and doesn’t interfere with their lives. He has a deep, basic confidence that something bigger than himself carries him. I like that very much. I should concentrate on not being distracted by others and caring about them instead of concentrating on my priorities. I am to wait until I am asked for help and not intervene myself. To give myself time and to stop having a bad conscience when I allow myself time for myself. I should believe in knowing what’s good for myself and not allow myself to be told by others what’s good for me or not. I heard that I need to keep my distance and to accept that God’s plans for everyone are His plans and for me not to interfere. That takes a burden off my shoulders. Regarding responsibility and guilt I heard myself say that I have to accept that everyone has to go their own path and that there is no reason to take it personally if someone does something different from what I advised. I understand that when my family doesn’t take my advice I shouldn’t take it personally. It’s more important to concentrate on getting better myself, learning more, studying more. That way I will emanate knowledge which will encourage them to ask me for help. I think that’s true. I don’t emanate self-confidence. This is what I can do toward my family while I already do it toward my clients. The octopus gives me permission to listen to myself and to grow! This is important, because I hadn’t been giving myself permission before.”
“I found it striking how the octopus laughed at the responsibility and guilt that I carry!”
“I am being told to believe in this basic confidence, an archaic confidence, that there is nothing I can do wrong or that I need to feel guilty for. That it doesn’t have to shake my confidence if others choose to do something differently than what I suggest.”
There are so many recommendations here that it is difficult to know what to focus on. What one can do is ask the octopus. “Octopus! You have made so many recommendations! Which ones would you focus on?” “Octopus! There is so much information here in this interview! What do you think is most important for Katherine to focus on?” What this does is take you out of the parenting role that is assumed by most directive forms of therapy, coaching and intervention. By doing so, it reduces opportunities for transference, or projections of therapist interpretations onto the client.
There are many advantages to such an interview. One is that Kathrin is giving herself permission to break out of a lifelong life script of feeling guilty if she does not put the needs and wishes of others before her own. She is also providing herself with an experience of what life without all that guilt and responsibility would feel like, which supports her in growing into first the possibility and then the reality of becoming this emerging potential.
Obviously, one interview is not going to change life-long habits. What it does is show a way forward and lay out a plan to test. But all of us require a support system and also some form of accountability on an ongoing basis to make fundamental life changes. IDL coaches, teachers and practitioners provide such support.