The Sunglasses Effect

Often over the years I've noticed toward the end of the session, clients begin to put on their sunglasses while still on the couch or before we reach the doorhandle together. This makes sense to me, as it affords the client a bit of privacy as a way of preparing to go back out into a world that is often harsh and cruel.  When someone feels raw and vulnerable or has been crying, sunglasses are a shield.   

Our world doesn't have the emotional refueling stations, way stations and drop off locations to feel our feelings and get support whenever we need to on a dime. Instead the onus is on us to shield our emotions and our vulnerability.   I'm visualizing the old fashioned filling station in those 50's and 60's movies in which attendants would come out and fill one's tank with gas, wipe the windshield and at times offer a smile.  We need these refueling stations for our hearts.   We need "Got Empathy" booths  set up in every town and city.  Perhaps utopian, but completely necessary nonetheless.  I love the community acupuncture movement in which patients receive low fee acupuncture sessions on a lazy boy recliner in a large group room.  I always wanted something like this for mental health patients as well, HIPPA and confidentiality requirements not withstanding.   

What would a world be like in which we could emote freely, like babies do, lungs wailing, ribcages billowing? Often we can do this in the sanctuary of therapy but then we go out into the world so scary and harsh.  Hence the sunglasses come on before one gets back past the waiting room.    

In the Reichian bodywork and breath work workshops I have trained in, participants experience the full range of emotional release, should the need arise.  From specific breathing exercises, held emotions are released. Vulnerability is a precious gift, tantamount to the deepest form of healing.  A 'let it rip' freedom is the norm in these Reichian workshops.  The client is supported to allow the full arc of feelings to rise and then pass away.    This is not for everyone.  For many, the inhibition is understandable.  However, if we see babies wail, why can't adult babies do the same?

I am sad and disappointed in a world that unquestionably requires sunglasses. I am not condemning the client; I am condemning our society.   It is not a problem residing in the client. It is a problem in a restrictive society with a narrow range of acceptable behaviors.  A  society disabled by decorum and proper conduct.