#004 - Queering Psychotherapy Part 2 - Practical Applications

Hey y’all! Thanks for checking out Part Two of this amazing post! In Part One I introduced the idea of Queering Psychotherapy (you can read Part One if you missed it by clicking here). A brief review: queering psychotherapy is about questioning all that we hold both individually and as a culture to be true or infallible. I previously introduced that the spirit of “queering” something is to disrupt the status quo and voluntarily enter into a place of discomfort with the knowledge that something unknown and potentially fertile will spring forth. I bet some of you have been wondering as you’ve been mulling over Part One “Great, Karolina, but how does that help me? How does this manifest in the real world?”

Excellent questions, and I will answer them now! I find theory useful, as long as I can apply it to my life in such a way that helps me grow and expand as an individual and in my relationships. So here are some ways that I see this theory affecting the lives of people I work with, and my own life as well. In my work with clients, I often see them come in with a problem or difficulty that they just want to get rid of. Those difficult parts of themselves and/or experiences they have had are painful, and of course they want relief. So getting rid of these uncomfortable things is what we’re going to do, right? Well, yes and no. Unfortunately, getting rid of uncomfortable things is not always the best path. Sometimes we must learn how to relate to these painful parts and go through transmutation, or a process of change, for healing to occur. In “Queer Theory” by Annamarie Jagose she states that queer is similar to some post-modern architecture in that it turns things inside out and shows its supports exoskeletally (pg.132). Working with these very strong and often habituated patterns can be difficult to turn inside out, but it can be done!

In sessions with clients I encourage them to stay with the discomfort, to turn towards those experiences that they want to get away from and observe what their uncomfortable sensations are made of-sometimes literally. Questions like: “What is the texture of the uncomfortable feeling?” “What is the shape of it?” “Does it have a point of origin in your body?” “If this discomfort wanted to move how would it move?” are helpful at this literal level of exploration. These questions are posed from a place of observation and often my clients really get into it! They become curious about this aspect of their experience that they have been avoiding or trying to get rid of for years. We are taking the endoskeleton that supports this discomfort, turning it inside out, and through the process of inquiry creating a new, healthier relationship with it.

This new relationship with the very idea of discomfort–curiosity rather than avoidance–can prepare us to meet life successfully. We gain a sense of security in the face of the insecurity, which is (unfortunately) a fact of life. When working with the spirit of queering we gain confidence in our ability to relate to whatever arises and begin to feel and see the benefits of engaging with those parts of ourselves and the world that are scary and challenging.  And often we also see that we are even scared of the things that feel good. Do we even know how to enjoy the good things? Or are we waiting for the other shoe to drop when life is going well?

On a final note, I want to share a personal experience I had which, for me, really embodies the spirit of queering my own experience. For a number of years I had a certain place in my stomach that held a lot of tension. I was generally frustrated with this place in my body; I would vacillate between trying to be gentle and kind toward it and feeling angry that it existed. At one point in time I had a panic attack because of the overwhelming anxiety that I was experiencing in this part of my body. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to “fix” this tension, i.e. make it relax, because this sensation sent me into such a panic when it arose.   

As I worked with this sensation for a few years I experienced some relief. During one particular session I had the experience of exploring the very structure of this place, to feel into the movement of this spot. First, I noticed the gentle, almost soothing, rotation of this place of tension. I stayed with the rotation, enjoying it, not needing to change it or make it go away. Then, from just being with this tension, I felt an entirely new aspect of it. This new aspect was vast, almost infinite, tender, vulnerable, and so right. After fighting this spot and trying to change it for years, I saw it clearly. I was literally brought to tears at the relief I felt from ceasing to resist it.

It was in learning to be in relationship to this part of myself that I found its true gifts. I can’t believe I avoided it for so long! And on the other hand I can, because of course it takes time to work with oneself on this level. We can’t always have the things we want on the timeline that we want them. I encourage you to experiment with exploring and getting to know–with curiosity–the places in you that are challenging, scary, yummy, and/or joyful. You might be surprised at what you find!