Counselling and Psychotherapy for
Body, Mind and Spirit

Ina Stockhausen, MTC

Ina Stockhausen R.P.C. offers spiritual counselling and body psychotherapy or somatic counseling in Burnaby and North Vancouver.

One of the most basic needs that humans  have is to be heard and seen.

Being heard and seen by someone  you love creates joy and well-being.

What do I mean when I talk about hearing and seeing someone? I’m talking about attunement and boundaries. When I start working with new counselling clients, our first session is always a boundary session. We explore how boundaries have been experienced in the past and how that manifests is showing up in the client’s life now.

Whether it is marriage counselling or helping someone cope with addiction recovery, boundary work is essential to communicating true needs and feelings and managing your own emotions.

Truly hearing and seeing someone and being heard and seen in return finally becomes possible when you are connected to and grounded in your boundary.

In order to make what can be an abstract concept, a felt sense in the body, I use string during the boundary exercise. At the end of the exercise I will say the following:

“I want you to know that I can see your boundary. During our work together, I am going to be right here with you, with my boundary. I am not going to invade your space, nor am I going to leave.”

What is often the most important sentence for clients to hear is this last sentence:
“You don’t have to worry wondering how what you’re sharing is landing for me. I will take care of myself.”

What is the greatest obstacle to either being heard and seen or to being fully present with someone you love?

Our Ego and poor boundary management are at the top of the list. Our ego likes to drive our internal monologue.
Here are some examples of what can happen when you’re listening to someone:
Notice that you may or you may NOT be aware that this is what you’re doing.

  • You get distracted because you’re busy or bored and start thinking about something in your own life – i.e. a part of you leaves and you pretend to listen
  • You start having opinions or judgments regarding what you’re hearing and you can’t wait to share those… so you stop listening or eagerly wait for an opportunity to interrupt
  • What you’re hearing brings up feelings for you – either regarding the well-being of the other person or your own anxiety, sadness, anger ecc. When it’s your turn to talk, you jump in trying to change how the other person is feeling or all of a sudden the conversation becomes  about you and your feelings.
  • You feel the need to fix things and start giving advice or telling the other person what they should be doing or thinking.

How many times have you shared something with a spouse or parent but “adjusted” the what, how and when of your communication because you wanted to

  • avoid conflict
  •  not upset the other person
  •  minimize your anxiety
  •  protect yourself from feeling vulnerable


About 12 years ago I was part of a closed group of therapist practicing dance movement therapy. For 2 years we met for 7 days twice a year. And in those 7 days, every day we repeated a particular exercise. It entailed one person being in front of the group (there were 30 of us) sharing an experience. Those watching had to be witnesses.

There were only two rules:
In silence, we were supposed to be fully present with the person in front of us and hear and see them.
The moment we noticed that we were no longer fully present because we got distracted, triggered, had gone off on a tangent, were in judgment mode ecc. we had to get up and stand in a marked area to the side.

If we were in “the box” our job was to now be fully present with ourselves; to truly hear and see what was going on for us. Once we had attended to our own issues and were ready to be fully present with someone else, we returned to the witness area.

It was an incredibly powerful exercise for both the witnesses and for the person in front of the group. We learned that as a collective, there were certain things that triggered us or we weren’t able or willing to hear.

As individuals, we were really able to get in touch with how easy it is to get caught up in how others respond to us. (It’s not easy to share something with a group and have half the people get up and stand over on the side.)

Mindfulness and good boundaries are 2 key ingredients for relationship thrival

because the promote an emotional connection where you can feel heard and seen.

How fully we are willing and able to be heard and seen is determined by the amount of emotional safety present in a relationship. I invite you to ponder the following questions and identify your challenges.

  • How safe is it for you to be authentic?
  • Can you share with your partner that you’re distracted or busy right now but you’re willing to listen later?
  • Can you set a boundary and share that what you’re hearing is bringing up feelings for you and that you’re now in your own world?
  • Are you willing to trust your partner to cope with whatever feelings might come up for them in the conversation?
  •  Are you able to let go of trying to “fix” whatever is going on for your spouse?
  •  Can you stay connected to your own boundary and soothe any anxiety present for you, when you share something you know the other person isn’t going to like?
  •  Are you able to not get defensive and lovingly own your own truth?
  • Can you refrain from criticizing what you’re hearing or asking WHY your partner feels this way?

Take some time to journal about what comes up for you and compare notes with your partner. You might be surprised about some assumptions have been making or how you individually experience your communication.

Often in our desire to be fully present with another, we stop being present with ourselves.
Learn the difference between being present WITH someone and being present FOR someone and how the latter can have some very negative consequences in Part 2 coming soon.

Ina Stockhausen, R .P.C. is a marriage therapist offering counselling services for Burnaby, the Tri-Cities area and greater Vancouver.

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