Drawing Out

Rebecca Haseltine 03/28/16

To continue with my friend’s question: “What do you mean by ‘embody’?” I’ll share another story. When I tell a story about a client, I change and leave out personal details to share the story without identifying the person. It’s important to protect privacy.

In the early 90’s my second client, S., was living with chronic pain, and I was a fresh student of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s. I had witnessed what seemed like miraculous changes in people that Bonnie worked with. A child would be unable to walk and after an hour would begin walking. So I was overly optimistic about the wonders I could offer S. I placed my hands on her arms and legs, and invited her to bring awareness into the fluid pathways of her body. She cried for most of every session – for months. In the middle of the night I would think about her nervous system and imagine how I could help her find the key – a molecular key, a physiological key – something in her body that would be the key to her healing. She felt that nothing I did was giving her lasting relief, and I was trying everything I could think of. Yet we continued to work together, I with my hope, and her with what I imagine was desperation. One day I showed up with a drawing pad and some pastels. She drew and looked at her drawings and talked about what she saw in them. That was the entire session. I felt I hadn’t done enough – I should be using my hands somehow. She told me this was the best session we had had – what she wanted most was to stop crying.



detail of one of my drawings

When I invited S. ‘into her body’, she felt sorrow and frustration. When I offered her a chance to go into expression, she felt tremendous relief. Focusing outside of herself seemed to help her drop more deeply in – into a calmer place. Where we place our attention and what kind of attention – there’s so much variability. There is awareness that can be like an ingrown hair and there is awareness that can be like a flower. And there are many ways to be in or out. What constitutes presence? The role of expression is a wild card that mixes it up even further. Through expression we can create something outside of ourselves and then walk away. It can also be a mirror. That creation can reflect something back to us that we knew internally…but didn’t know consciously, or know differently once we see it.