When I was training to be a psychotherapist there was a term that was frequently used by those who trained me. “Breaking the frame”. This is used to describe when something intentionally or unintentionally is done by the therapist that does damage to the therapeutic relationship. Say you had a client coming to you who you knew to be angry by the way they carried themselves, the way they spoke, looked,by the way they made you feel. Say this client believed themselves to be the very opposite of angry, almost angelic. They were completely unaware of their anger, or just too afraid to deal with it. Try as you may to create space for the anger the client came week after week unable to have the awareness that the anger was the one thing blocking all other things. This can take it’s toll both on the client and on you, the therapist, hoping each week that the space you create will be enough. You speak about what goes on for yourself in supervision in the hope of doing no damage to the therapeutic relationship you are trying to maintain. Sometimes this is enough to hold the space. Sometimes working on yourself allows the client to move forward, and then sometimes it is not. Something happens either to you or to the client, and the anger that has been floating around comes to the surface and all hell can break loose. Your client, depending on how much they have the ability to cope with their reality, may in some cases never return, or it can be the very best thing that can happen, outing their rage and giving them a whole new perspective.Either way this is a huge risk. Either way a lot is asked of client and of therapist, with neither knowing the outcome. This is called “Breaking the frame”.
Last weekend a frame in my life was smashed into a million little pieces. This frame belonged to a loved one, and it belonged to me. We have both held this frame very tightly since I was a little girl, neither of us daring to break it for fear of what may come to pass. The thing about holding onto something so tightly is that sooner or later it will crack under pressure. Nothing, or no one can sustain pressure forever. The break came in the blink of any eye, so fast neither of us noticed it had dropped, and when it smashed into a million little pieces neither of us could take it back up off the floor and put it back where it belonged. That’s the thing about things we break, they are never really the same after we glue them back together, and worse than that, sometimes the breaks cannot be fixed.
I am sitting here today with all these broken pieces sitting in my lap and I have no idea what to do with them. “Put them back together”, some might say, but do I really want to restore the frame I had? The frame that was held so tightly I could barely breathe for most of my life. This is where the courage comes. The courage required of both parties when the frame gets broken, and in this one person may have more courage than the other. I cannot know what my loved one will do, all I have is my side of the street. What do I want my side of the street to look like? Will it be scattered with broken frames, or will I choose to have it clean and clear?
I know which one I will choose. I am weary of frames that take too my of my weight to bear. Maybe this is the freedom I have been been seeking lately. Maybe it is time to let go. Let go and have the courage to break more frames. As scary as it is maybe this is where my happiness lies.