PART 1 – Our Own Space

As we continue to adjust and manage our lives through this new norm of social distancing and regulation of our usual ways of behaving,  we find ourselves confronting our thoughts and feelings concerning space.

During these unprecedented times, we’ve experienced a heightened awareness of our own personal space and also our external space – contact with other people (whether in the intimacy of our personal environment or in a public context).  

Over the years I have felt privileged to be able to share space with many single and couple clients in the environment of a therapy room or online.   Within that space, thoughts, feelings and behaviours have been expressed both consciously and unconsciously.     Currently, there’s a real importance and relevance to what the therapy room/session  represents  – a place to go to, a place to focus, a place where there is a boundary between our private and work/social spaces. Coming out of one space and into another offers us a boundary whilst we transition, where we might re-calibrate and reflect.

As a psychodynamic relationship psychotherapist, I  often think about space in it’s many contexts and configurations within a relationship dynamic – our physical, mental, emotional and psychic space. 

How do couples manage their relationship space?  Is the partnership able to offer each a space to be alone and also share with others?   Is space  available naturally, or do we need to negotiate it?  

Space – what does it mean?   I imagine we all have our own truths for this word.   Creating it, having it, being given it, forced to make it, or having it taken away/minimised.

Having space in a relationship can feel refreshing and creative and we can appreciate space when leave it and return to it, sharing the experiences of our transitions.   We are continuously a part of what makes up space, whether we are present or absent from it. Our total selves are shared in the relationship space; providing us with experiences, discussion, debates, arguments, agreements or simply affirmation and pleasure.  

Conversely, space can also evoke anxiety and fear, as we might feel unstable, unsafe and vulnerable in our shared space.  Negative emotions and behaviour can arise and they may be momentary, or on a continuum. We may try to manage our relationship space using avoidance tactics, or feel compelled to confront and question.   How we are able to regulate ourselves in our relationships is an ongoing, life-long learning process as we try to consider our needs and those of others.

In contrast to our “inner space”, our external environment, the space around us, has important affects and outcomes on how we feel and behave.   Finding positive space can help us to reflect and repair.

Creating space can provide some time to pause, re-think and then re-group.   Conversely, creating space can create fear of abandonment or loss.  

Are we able to reflect on how we experience the space within our relationship?  How do they serve us and make us feel?

What if we feel  that the space is claustrophobic –  physically, mentally and emotionally?   Are we feeling too merged and enmeshed with another person?  Can we experience our genuine self when in our relationship?   Do we give our partner the space they need?

A therapy session is space.

In Part 2 of this Blog, I reflect further on space and the shared space of the couple relationship.