When therapists are present with a client’s experience (in unconditional presence) something inside the client begins to relax and open up more fully. What I have found, time and time again, is that unconditional presence is the most powerful transmuting force there is, precisely because it is a willingness to be there with our experience, without dividing ourselves in two by trying to manage what we are feeling.
For example, a client fears that she is nothing – that if she looks inside, she wont find anything there. Although I first ask her to pay attention to this fear of being nothing in her body and we discuss how it relates to situations from her past, eventually I invite to open directly to the sense of being nothing. And after a while she says … `It feels empty, but there is also a fullness and a sense of peace`, she feels full because she is present now, rather than disconnected. It is her being that feels peaceful and full. And she starts to realise that her sense of nothingness was actually a sense of being cut off from herself – a disconnection reinforced by stories and beliefs she has about the dreaded void at her core. Of course, feelings don`t always transmute this easily. Yet for clients who have experienced this a number of times it can happen more and more readily.
Feelings, in themselves, don’t always lead to wisdom, but the process of fully opening to them can. When we no longer maintain distance from a feeling, it cannot preserve its apparent solidity, which only crystallises when we treat it as an object separate from ourselves. In the above example, the clients fear of being nothing only persisted as long as she resisted that experience. But when she opened unconditionally to being nothing, this inner division ceased, at least for a while, as she stepped out of fixed stance/attitudes/associations she held toward
being nothingwith their long history dating back to childhood.
In becoming present in a place she had been absent, she experienced her being, rather than her nothingness. Being nothing translated into the empty fullness of being – where the fear of being nothing no longer had a hold on her.
John Welwood : Towards A Psychology of Awakening