Fear Below the Surface

The image of a man jumping headfirst into a river came to me while the patient on the couch was in mid sentence. I couldn’t remember what he was talking about. I sensed he was frightened. I was frightened. What if the man jumping into the river headfirst was struck by a rock underneath the surface of the water? He was talking about water. He’d started to swim in an indoor pool. He said he felt better after exercising. In fact, he would go to the pool after today’s session. The image of a man jumping headfirst into rushing water below returned – and this time I was reminded of the patient speaking on the couch – and was accompanied by the word danger. This therapeutic work was dangerous. I was listening to each sentence that the patient uttered. He’d been afraid of water as a child. Was he unconsciously afraid of drowning in this work on the couch? Did the safety of a pool help him to overcome his fear of drowning? I’d been silent for perhaps several minutes, and I wondered whether my silence contributed to his feeling overwhelmed. He hadn’t mentioned the word overwhelmed. It was part of my thought. During the hour, where was the dividing line between his and my thoughts? I was starting to feel overwhelmed. Only a few minutes remained. Then the patient would go swimming. I experienced the danger he felt, on the couch. Or maybe he didn’t experience it at all. Seconds passed. I was jumping into the work of this session. Fear was part of it.

 

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