I recently had a patient—let's call her “Sarah”—who had just finished five years of therapy, following a divorce. She wanted to date again, but still didn't feel completely separate from her ex-husband, and her friends told her as much.
Sarah seemed clearheaded about her issues and had insight in discussing them: she just couldn't get her feelings to accompany the cognitive shifts. Even though there was a literal separation and boundary, she still felt juxtaposed with the energy/body/being of her former partner. She couldn't actualize the experience of separation fully. As a result, she had become like someone floundering in the water, who had watched a thousand videos on the proper way to swim but couldn’t actually activate the muscles movements required. Separation still didn't feel true.
The root issue was the inability to connect to the body or to find “embodiment.” She exists; she has a physical body. And there are limits to that experience. Her emotions, thoughts and energy all have boundaries, as well. Freedom for her and others in similar states is grounded in that recognition: She can be free when she can feel those boundaries and recognize limits. From this place, space is created.
From the recognition of space, Sarah can then observe and learn not to confuse “other” with “self.” For her to really divorce or separate from another person, she must recognize herself as separate. It is the confusion of these two entities that keeps the connection alive.
When Sarah connected to herself more and more through our work, the recognition of herself as an individual enabled a boundary and recognition of her ex as separate. Sarah's realization brought immense joy and that well-deserved freedom.