We’re almost to the end of our series on the GROUND of RSM. So far I’ve covered Gentleness, Respect, Openness, and Understanding. The ‘N’ stands for Noticing, and like all the others, is a foundational aspect of our work in Rubenfeld Synergy Method.
Noticing is about more than simple observation, although that is the beginning of it. Noticing is part of the quality of attention a Synergist strives to provide to her client, and it involves not just seeing, hearing or sensing something, but being able to point it out with sensitivity and care, such that the Synergist and client can explore it together.
As I said in my post on understanding, many clients are coming to therapy in order to feel seen and be heard. In Synergy, you could say they want to feel seen, heard, touched, and moved, as we also offer physical contact. It is no accident that those last two words have obvious double meanings. With this work, we are equipped with more tools for noticing – more ways of engaging with a client and learning about who they are.
Noticing offers a client several things. For one, a Synergist may notice something going on with a client that helps that client make a key connection. I might say, “I notice as you’re talking about your daughter, your shoulder really tightens up. Do you notice that?” These kinds of connections are especially key for work in Synergy, as they show us where a client is being incongruent: where his words aren’t matching up with what his body is telling us. One of Ilana’s classic stories involves an older divorcee talking about how much she desperately misses her husband and how sad she is all the time, but Ilana notices that the woman’s neck and shoulders are loose, warm and free. When she points it out, she gets to the truth of the situation: the woman is really happy – and sexually fulfilled – for the first time in her life, but feels like she’s supposed to feel miserable! Helping clients notice what they are really feeling and experiencing, versus what they believe they’re meant to be feeling, can be extraordinarily freeing, and lead to positive change.
Second, noticing is something a Synergist helps a client do for themselves, as much as possible. A common question in a session is, “As I have my hands here at your feet, what do you notice?” The answer may be almost anything, including “Nothing.” But even that “nothing” is information about how the client experiences her own body. Are you someone who is out of touch with her own sensations? How does that affect how you experience emotion? How you move in the world? I’ve heard countless observations: “My feet are cold.” “This foot wants to dance.” “My feet are for running away.” “My feet feel stuck in the mud.” All of these noticings can be gateways into an exploration that can become a theme for an entire session – and the client begins to realize that noticing the subtle things is a valuable source of information.
Finally, and perhaps most important, noticing is a way the Synergist can tell a client something about themselves that they may not know, or believe. A powerful session I witnessed during the training involved Joe Weldon (yet again; can you tell he’s kind of my hero?) telling one of my classmates, “You know what I know about you? You really need time.” And it became a theme for the whole session, and a theme that continued for her through the rest of the training. It became very clear that time was key for her, that her speed of processing physical and emotional input was perhaps slower than average, or slower than she’d been told is okay. And in that session, Joe gave her all the time in the world – moving very slowly from place to place on her body, giving her a lot of time to respond, and ultimately, making her feel like he really, really saw her: something core to her being that she hadn’t even fully realized herself.
Even with a newer client – someone the Synergist hasn’t gotten to know well – you can begin to observe things about them which, when brought together and presented as a noticing, can be a gift to that client. “What I notice about you is when you talk about feelings that sound important, you tend to dismiss them afterward.” “What I know about you is that when you come into my office, you always have a smile and a kind word, even when you’re having a hard day.” The other day, a loved one told me, “I’ve never heard you be mean to anyone.” It was a great gift: something that I was unsure about, that I worry about more than I realized, and that he was able to encapsulate and give to me in a way that we often cannot for ourselves.
What we can notice for a client, what we can help them notice, can bring so much healing, as that client begins to feel seen, heard – noticed – and accepted.