“Are we done yet?”

(676 words – 2 1/2 minute read)

I make bread, and I’ve just kneaded some dough and set it out to rise, and making bread is a useful analogy to knowing when a session is “done”.

I used to have a bread-maker but after fifteen years the motor packed in. I thought of popping down to the local WalMart for a new machine but I was in a “simplify” frame of mind and decided to give it a go at making it by hand.

I now enjoy kneading the dough by hand it can be therapeutic: I can work out my frustration, or I can use the time to practice patience – or I can simply be kneading dough, with nothing added.

And, just as some people, who, when showering or doing an activity that distracts the thinking mind, have a moment of inspiration, kneading dough can also make some space for the answer to a problem that might have been simmering in the background of my mind to arise. Einstein said his best ideas came to him while shaving; (if Einstein had a beard we might not have the theory of relativity).

The baking part is also interesting. Underdone bread is gluey in the middle, and overdone bread is too dry and biscuity. You have to get it just right. I bake in a toaster oven and the recommended time and temperature doesn’t exactly apply. I experimented and found that 375 degrees for 40 minutes was right. I got there pretty quickly because I also had a gut sense of what was right. It’s like boiling a soft-boiled egg so that the white is just solid and the yolk is nice and runny. I can time it, which I do, but if I forget to look at the clock there is something inside of me that says “the eggs are done now” – and they are.

This inward sensibility is useful in knowing when we have dealt with an issue in session. In an ideal session we choose something to resolve and resolve it. That sounds simplistic but it is all to easy to end up chasing the client as she rummages frantically through old boxes of painful memories hoping against hope to trip over an insight that will provide some relief. Not good. Pick an item of interest and resolve it. You can only climb one mountain at a time.

Stop too soon in the process, and we have a nagging sensation that something has been overlooked. Or, we can go past the point of resolution, which throws the gains made into doubt as we search for something that is no longer there. Noticing that exact moment when we are done is the trick.

There are three signs of an issue being resolved or “done”:  the first is a cognitive or mental shift, an “aha” moment, a realization; the second is an affective or emotional shift, a cloudy mood lifts and the sun shines through, happy again; the third is a somatic or body shift, a tense body relaxes, a sigh of relief, laughter.

Sometimes the client is too tired, has insufficient energy, to process any more of the issue disturbing them. Then we find a resting place. The journey is not over but we can safely rest here awhile until the next session.

In life it is useful to have a sense of this ebb and flow of interest, energy and doneness. But it is not always a matter of simply going with the flow. As the great thinker Sarah Palin said: “only dead fish go with the flow”. Sometimes it is necessary to push through to completion as if there were a battle of wills between you and your task. It can feel like pushing against a flexible barrier that with one final push suddenly gives way; or it can feel like clearing a table, patiently removing the dirty dishes until there are none left.

The thing is to get a feel for it and go from there.

And now I feel this post is “done”.

Best of luck – Rod.