What Color is Your Blue?

Last week I had the privilege of visiting the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City. It was an amazing and overwhelming experience which I continue  to process several days later.  One exhibit demonstrated the varied hues of blue that witnesses recall the sky being that morning and it reminded me of conversations I’ve had with clients who question whether they see things as others see them and vice versa, and the struggle people often have when their experiences don’t coincide with those of others or  the assumptions others project onto them.

Spencer Finch Immortalizes Crystalline Blue Sky at the 9/11 Museum

Often, my clients tell me they feel invisible or unimportant or run over by those who are supposed to be close to them but take their experiences or preferences for granted.  In fact, I’d say the driving force for seeking therapy is most often a sense of being alone in one’s experience and wanting understanding and support.  Sometimes clients come to therapy for a reality check because the lack of understanding they receive can feel surreal or crazy-making. With so many opinions (even if it’s just one opinion!) coming to bear against their perceptions, they wonder if their viewpoint is valid, if their shade of blue is truly blue.  They begin to wonder why no one “gets” them or if they are “gettable.”

This manifests in my office in many ways.  It’s most palpable in couples or family counseling when, before my eyes, I see the the communication misfires that happen when each participant is speaking from their own vantage point and thinking it is a shared one.  The first order of business is to get everyone in the room to see and acknowledge that they are missing each other’s point by assuming they are all on the same page. It can be challenging to even get that far but I’ve seen tension de-escalate quickly once my clients realize they are looking at things from completely different angles.  When everyone calms down and recognizes that theirs isn’t a shared experience,  it allows exploration of each viewpoint from a position of openness and curiosity.

With an individual client, I see this lack of shared experience come across as frustration and loneliness which often leads to depression or anxiety about whether or not one is understood.  This can make a client feel abandoned or discourage them from attempts to improve or increase the connections they have with others.  They give up trying to understand or be understood.  Meanwhile their resentment and loneliness increase and their ties to others drift further apart.

My main purpose as a therapist is to understand my clients’ experiences as thoroughly as possible.  Sitting in the room with someone who understands you, or is motivated to do so as closely as possible, can be very healing and alleviate a sense of depression, anxiety, and isolation.  It is when we feel supported, seen, heard, and accepted that we are truly able to launch into our true and best selves.

If you would benefit from examining their version of blue in the company of someone who wants and works to see the sky from your vantage point, give me a call.