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February 16, 2004

Smashing Glass

I was taught that it was not good to break things, especially glass. It was a bad thing to do—and I would be bad if I did it. It seemed like a "sin," and such an accident was met with an emotional wave of blame, shame, and mini-horror far beyond the potential danger involved.

A client of mine recently turned this taboo upside down. The following story is recounted with her permission, and her identity has been changed.

In a childhood molded by neglect and corporal punishment, Antoinette learned that it was safer to be a good girl than be herself. She pushed her hurt and anger down and pleased others instead. After years of giving without receiving, she eventually became physically and emotionally exhausted.

As Anni began to rediscover her hidden self, she began to feel anger about her abuse. She also began to see spontaneous images in her mind—images of her smashing bottles, plates, and glasses with wild abandon. At some point she asked me if it might be helpful to realize this fantasy, and I thought that it probably would.

Anni's job was to collect glassware, and my job was to find a safe location where we could proceed responsibly. Anni was very nervous, because so much hurt and fear was associated with doing such a "bad" thing. When the morning for the session arrived, Anni had collected over 100 items—but I had been unable to find the right place. Anni seemed somewhat relieved. But I suggested that we get in the car and see if a good location would present itself.

After we meandered through industrial parks and country lanes for half an hour without success, we turned back onto the main highway. I said, "at least it's a nice day for a drive in the country" and let go of my intention—and then there it was—a small abandoned building in the middle of a snow-covered field.

We hauled all the glassware through the knee-deep snow and into the unlocked, old bodywork shop. It was full of debris, oil drums, and leftover junk. I set up a safe area where the glass could be thrown on the concrete floor against a plywood wall.

As Anni faced doing the undoable, she expressed a storm of emotions. All the years of oppression and pain poured up and out.

Then the time came for the first bottle.

What a glorious thing it was to witness. It was like a symphony—smash, smash, smash! Bottle after bottle, glass after glass. All these "perfect" hard, shiny items bounced and crashed into billows of sparkling fragments. There was something grand and beautiful about Anni's power and rebellious courage. She was no longer acting the "good girl." She was being Anni, and she was more important than any shiny, glass decoration.

We eventually stood and looked at the magnificent pile of broken pieces. Anni had tried for years to put the pieces of her Humpty Dumpty family back together again. She had cleaned up the mess of other people for too many years. She had broken the mold.

I cleaned up.

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