It was one of those mornings after a long wedding weekend. I was happy and excited to meet my therapist and tell her about the fun and exciting events that took place. At that point of my life, waking up happy was a rare experience for me. This was just a month into the start of my therapy. I was learning what it’s like to be vulnerable and trust another person. Before therapy, I was uncomfortable being perceived or seen by people. I began to understand how to open myself emotionally while embracing myself in the holding of another. It was a scary and confusing experience. It helped me understand why it is important for people training to be a therapist to be in their own therapy. I don’t remember a lot of details, except that I was in a cheerful mood, with mehendi on my hands. I had a vibrant, joyful face and a lot of nice feelings. I sat waiting for the familiar warm presence of my therapist.
When we started talking, I told her about how my weekend was. I had been back to my father’s hometown, which is in Himachal Pradesh. It is up in the mountains and very far away from all the city noise and crowd. I was reading a book on my way to the place and then on the way back to my home. I was reading Come as you Are by Emily Nagoski, and that too, was a very heart opening experience. I told her about all the things we did; weddings have always excited me. It was a small-town wedding. I told her about the nice clothes and jewellery I wore, the not-so-nice food, the family politics, and conflicts. I told her about how whenever I am in that place, I feel very alienated because I feel like an outsider. In these trips, I bond so much more with my sister. Hence, I had spent a lot of time connecting with her too.
At the time, and initially, I had started my therapy to build a better relationship with my face and body. I used to hate it, I used to loathe it. I used to flinch if I ever saw my face in the mirror. There was rarely a day where I didn’t hate my physical appearance as much and found it worth looking. My therapist had asked me to tell her what features of my face I didn’t like. I had told her, “it’s the crooked cupid bow of my lips, the gap in my teeth, the slight squint in my eyes, the acne prone skin, the skin scarred with acne marks, the baby hair”. It was hard for me to find even one thing that I didn’t find ugly about my face. I remember crying when I first verbalized all these things. Prior to that, it was all in my head, essentially a pool of nonverbal thoughts and feelings about my face. In this session, I had very excitedly told my therapist about wearing a patiyala suit in one of the wedding ceremonies. It had a plain, mauve colored kurti, and green colored floral printed patiyala salwar and chunni. It was a pretty simple suit, and I had paired it up with a jhumki, and nothing else. No makeup, nothing. Not that I recall now.
My sister and I had been clicking photos of ourselves and the clear blue sky, and the mountains and the clouds. One picture of mine had me sitting down on a small staircase that led to the terrace, with the wind making my hair covering some parts of my face. I was smiling. It is a beautiful picture. I think it is one of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen. After I saw it for the first time, I could not believe it was me. It didn’t feel like the person in that picture and I were the same individuals, that we share the same body, or that I could ever look this beautiful. Naturally, I talked about all of this to my therapist. I told her that I felt really beautiful in that photo and I couldn’t believe that was me. I shared I have never felt this beautiful in my life. It was a very new and unfamiliar feeling. My therapist attentively and patiently listened to me talk about experiencing myself in such an unusual manner. After I was done, she told me that she is curious about the entire experience I had. I asked her why, wondering if I was not clear about what I was experiencing? Finding myself beautiful for the first time? She told me, as much as that is what this is, the person from a couple of sessions who talked about all the flaws in her face is also the same person. I felt confused.
She went on to explain that the person who talked about the flaws and who hated her face, the person in the photo, and the person in front of her right now talking about finding herself beautiful, are all the same individuals. It made me confused even more, as to how this observation is relevant. She went on to say that this means that objectively my face doesn’t have any problems. It is not “ugly”. It was just this. These simple words, an observation or a statement. It moved something, shook something deep inside me. As simple as this sounds, it was a shock for me to hear someone say that objectively there is nothing wrong with my face. She didn’t even say I was beautiful or that I was not ugly. She just said that objectively my face is just as someone else’s would be. In some ways, there was a deep spiritual movement that happened inside me when I heard that. I went dumbstruck. I couldn’t say anything to that for some time. I don’t remember what happened after this though. I don’t remember the rest of our conversation, or how I reacted. I just remember that it was healing for a person I had just met to tell me, explain it to me, from my own words, observations and statements, and in a very as-a-matter-of-the-fact manner that “Simran, there is nothing objectively wrong with you.”
It was kind. It was loving, accepting, even if it was just an observation. I felt as if someone just changed the entire way I experience my world and myself. The aftermath of that session is very blurry. Still to this date, I carry these words with me. Gradually, over a period of two years, my confidence for my body and my face evolved in so many beautiful ways. Of course, I do slip in these cycles briefly of starting to hate and fixating myself on these flaws, but now I have been able to find a lot of grounding and holding in that one interaction I had with my therapist.
That was my finest hour of therapy. An interaction, a form of love and acceptance, that perhaps I will always hold so close to my heart. An interaction that transformed my relationship with myself. Perhaps, this was the starting point of the end of my dissociative experiences. To know that the body I am in, is not objectively flawed. I began to live in my body after knowing this. As a human, it changed my understanding of what it is to be seen. It bettered and deepened my belief of how relationships also can be. It does not take a grand gesture to impact someone. Through holding the space and accepting them with their flaws and imperfections, growth is made. Growth is also made through recognizing their strengths and dreams. The idea that a person can love someone without requesting change of them was profound to me.
It also helped me as a clinician because prior to that I had a novice understanding of how therapy works. I used to imagine it as a “teacher-student” type dynamic. That clients will sit on the couch and share their problems, then the therapist would respond on what they think would help. Through that simple exchange I believed all problems would resolve. In this one interaction, I understood it was just the very surface of therapy. One does not have to fix one’s problem. A client and their therapist just has to aid them to feel self-reliant enough to either accept that the problem, or give the client the resources to solve the problem by their own selves.
The love I felt in this one finest hour, was not even the finest hour of my own clinical work, however it laid the template for me to be a relational human and be, just be, in the world.
Cite This Article
Singh, S. D. (2024, January). Coming back home: A journey to reconnection with self. Psychotherapy Bulletin, 59(2).