My therapist had a vision: me standing on a tennis court, bright yellow balls at my feet that were lobbed over the net by other people. I could see her vision so clearly as though we were mind-melded: I’m running down court, up court, scooping up balls and hurling them back over the net.
“You seem to think you have to pick them all up,” my therapist said. The image of me standing there, ankle-deep in tennis balls stopped me cold. It explained what I couldn’t articulate yet seemed to understand in my cells. It indicated how expert I’d become at giving myself away.
“You have options,” my therapist continued. “You could leave all the balls there. You could pick one up, look at it, turn it over, put it back down.”
This epiphany gave me a fresh take on the role I’d played in unsatisfying relationships: I was doing most of the work. There was so much to unpack. I knew from the tennis ball metaphor, that I’d set up the dynamics of these unbalanced relationships. But how? I had to surface this reflexive behavior from the depths of my subconscious. I decided the easiest approach would be not to overthink it. Just stop picking up balls.
The very thought of it frightened me, like a form of death. A void I couldn’t name.
But the only way to know the void was to enter it.
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Tough Love Practices for Not Giving Yourself Away
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