Story From the Field: Paper – Ticket to Freedom

Paper 1: Ticket to Freedom
I was working with a woman who felt that she needed access to ALL her paper all the time and consequently it was piled a mile high and wide on her desk. She believed that as an artist, she had no aptitude for organization, and besides, she inherited her relationship with paper from her mother. As we sat together her anxiety would rise and we would breathe, have a sip of water, tell a story or two and then move on. During our third session we shared an epiphany. As she repeated that difficulty with paper was passed down to her from her mother, I realized something profound.

The backstory – Her mother was a Holocaust survivor and among the many things we found were the passport and immigration “papers” which allowed her to flee her native Germany as her very own parents were deported to die in Auschwitz Concentration Camp. In this case paper was literally her ticket to freedom. Her dependence on paper was cemented as it allowed her to escape certain death. For her, there would never be time or bandwidth to discern what was necessary. It all might be needed at some important juncture in time.

Too much paper is a real issue for all of us. I have general tips for paper management but in this case unlocking this personal story proved profoundly beneficial to my client. She attacked her paper with a new thirst – one that would be sated. Piles turned into recycling or files. She learned that structure provides the canvas for creativity and was gleeful when she filed something according to the system she created and understood. We honored her mother’s story of survival by placing the important documents in a frame with a picture of family, her town and her synagogue. My client is unburdened and her mother’s story is now treated with the importance it deserves.