Can not sleep
Martha is in her late fifties and no longer sleeping. Not for a long time. When I ask it out, it turns out that on a good night she gets no more than four hours, often much less, and then also interrupted. She has already tried everything: seen various specialists, was prescribed a multitude of medicines and she can now start her own shop with all the sleeping aids she has at home.
Of course, I ask about sleep hygiene as movement, the place where she sleeps, and the use of screens. She does it by the book, in a way I could take another example, and from her pocket, she pulls out a phone from the era of the first Nokia. I sense in myself a great not-knowing and something in me that very much wants a solution for her. Not only for her but also for myself. I consciously choose the route of not knowing.
I grab a pillow and put it in front of her. If this pillow symbolizes your “sleeping”, how much do you want it? “Yes please!” And if I wanted that pillow too, what would that do to you? “Then I’ll lie on top of it so it’s mine!” Are you at risk? I ask. “Yes, you have it before I do.
” So what would you want if you weren’t allowed to touch it? “Then I would sit right next to it and make sure no one can get it: that pillow is mine!” What do you feel in your body now? “I am tense, alert, everything in me is on!” If everything in you is alert and awake, what do you think are the chances of falling asleep? She smiles; “Zero! It makes sense that I can’t sleep then…”
Giving up on your desire
I explain to her that the opposition movement is also possible. When the desire is very great, the risk of hurt increases proportionately. After all; if you really want to sleep, it is all the more painful when you don’t succeed (again). In order not to have to feel the pain of being hurt, we have a successful strategy: we give up on our desire: oh never mind, it makes no sense, it will never work… She also knows that movement. What do you feel in your body then? “Then I feel heavy, depressed, and powerless”.
There’s another option, I say. That’s the place right in between. She repeats the following sentence: “My desire is to be able to sleep well…, but it doesn’t have to be that way…”. What do you feel when you say that? “Much more relaxed,” she says. Here she makes contact with the place of surrender. Surrender is not giving up. When you give up, you push the desire away from you and you no longer have contact with it. In surrender, your desire may be completely true, but realize that it doesn’t actually have to be that way.
Choosing puts you in charge of your own life
“Are you saying that I should be less busy with it? That I don’t necessarily have to sleep if it’s not there?” I nod. “But I have to go shopping again the next morning, don’t I?” Who should that be? “Of my own”. Why? “I have to take care of my husband and the family, right?” Why is that? Must, I continue, has something in it that some greater power determines for you whether or not you should do something.
No one says you “have to” do that: you choose to do it. You choose to go shopping. And the moment you choose to do that, you immediately create the space for yourself to also be able to say: I choose not to do it! The moment you choose, who is at the helm? “I”. Would that be valuable to be in charge of your own life? “Yes!”
Putting yourself first
What makes you think you should go shopping? “I still have to take care of my husband. After all, I am married to him.” So? “So then I’m there for him after all!?” So that? “So that he is happy too…” I look her straight in the eye: do you realize this is an arrogant place? Namely that you are the one who would be responsible for your partner’s happiness? With that, you actually say: I take care of your happiness because you cannot do it yourself.
Besides, it’s not just about him. Because if he’s happy, what does that do to you? “Then I also feel good…” Exactly! And there is nothing wrong with your intention, but the practical result is that you continue to take care of him, not only for him but above all in the hope that you can feel good about yourself as a result.
If you always take care of that and take another person into account: whose life do you live? “The other’s…” Do you want that? “New!” So you have to take very good care of yourself here and put yourself first. With that you give the other a great gift because you say: I take care of myself, so you don’t have to do it for me! It’s great if you’re there for me, I’d love to, but if you’re not able to do that for a while, I can take care of myself. And I trust you that you can too. And from there you can be very good for the other…
Connecting with your anger
“But that’s not how I learned it,” she says. “ I always had to be there for the other. From a very young age. I was responsible for my mother, my father, brothers, and sisters…” And what does that do to you? “That makes me angry, frustrated, sad, powerless. But most of all very angry!” Can you be mad at yourself? She repeats the question, “Can I be angry with myself? No, not really…” What would be the risk of making contact with your anger? “Well, hideaway”, she says with a laugh, “then a whole cesspool will open!”
Then I ask her to close her eyes and make contact with her anger and let it be as big as it shows itself now. Not bigger, not smaller. But exactly as it now wants to show itself to her. What do you notice then? “Then I want to scream really loud, cry and tear the pillow to pieces.” I give her the freedom to express her anger as it feels right for her in this moment. The energy is so great that the pillow loses the fight and tears. That too is welcome.
Your body is smarter than your head
When this energy cannot go out and be expressed, where does it go? She opens her eyes. She whispers softly; “Go inside”. If this huge energy is stored inside you and you keep suppressing it, what effect will it have on your sleep, do you think…?
So suppose that your body is smarter here than your head and keeps you awake and alert here so that you can eventually make contact with your anger, sadness, frustration … and therefore more in connection with yourself. And that from there you will take better care of yourself in the future and then also be better for others… Would it be valuable to stay awake and alert here?
She nods in agreement. She feels liberated and relaxed. She doesn’t have to fight anymore, not sleeping is also okay… Exciting to make contact with her anger, and yet she is going to choose it. Ultimately, that will give more relaxation and sleep will again become a logical side effect of that process. Then the body can finally rest.