Sometimes I really hate therapy. Or, maybe it’s fairer to say that it’s a sort of love/hate relationship.
I feel I need it, that I would struggle to manage without this space to work things through, yet at the same time, by its very nature, it brings out memories, feelings and memories of feelings that can be very hard to cope with.
Often when I go to session I will have some idea of what I might want to talk about, an awareness of what’s been on my mind since the last session, or a general feeling of something bubbling under the surface, and that will be my starting point.
I have this habit – a very set pattern to how I enter into the session; I’ll greet A. at the door, walk ahead of her into the room, sit down, wait for her to sit, shuffle a bit, and then I’ll sit silently for a bit staring into space, making no eye-contact, often absentmindedly playing with my ring, water bottle or earphones, allowing myself to centre a bit; to go from the outside world, the stress of getting to session on time, of having just got off the phone with someone, of letting go of minor things – and only then will I be ready to begin my session.
I’ve noticed that the first thing I say is often not the genuine point of urgency which many therapists seem to hold in high esteem; this idea that whatever words the client comes out with first is of definitive importance and urgency, whether it be a joke, an awkward question or whatever. That may be true for some people, but for me I don’t really think it is as I have a tendency to purposely say something quite vague, sometimes something near to but not actually what I want to talk about, and sometimes I’ll even open with something I know to be completely irrelevant to what’s on my mind. It’s just part of the dance I do. A bit like dipping your toe to test the water before deciding whether or not I really do want to go for a swim just then.
Sometimes I decide that Yes, I do want to go for a swim and I’ll dive right in. Other times I’ll decide that I’m not quite brave enough and I’ll hold back, either to return to it later in the session or save it for another session. A bit like playing poker, really: I know what cards I’ve got, and then I decide whether to check, fold or bet.
I’m sure this behaviour must be utterly frustrating for A., because I think it’s often quite obvious when I’m purposely going off target, when I’m choosing to not allow myself to be fully present in the session; I think it’s fairly clear when I’m choosing to go with the B storyline, rather than the A one.
Then again there are times when I’ll decide to take the plunge, to try to be as open as possible, to do what I very rarely do anywhere else; to think out loud, to share my thought process. And that’s pretty scary stuff. Especially if you’re someone who in every other situation veers towards making sure you’ve completed your thinking, your reasoning, your feelings, your going back and forths before you share any tiny part of the conclusion with anyone.
Then, of course, there are those sessions when things just flow. You let go and just say what’s on your mind. One thing leads to another, and in the moment it feels great, feels like you’ve hit the jackpot. This, being able to share fears and worries, is such a relief, and you allow the avalanche to keep on sliding.
Until you get to the end of session. And you have to go back to the world outside of therapy. Deal with all those feelings that have surfaced in session, those thoughts you’ve up until then kept safely under lock and key. And this is where the hate-part in the love/hate relationship comes in.
Dealing with the reality of being in therapy is a lot of work. Hard and sometimes painful work.
So why do people put themselves through that?
I guess because there is something stronger than the pain, bigger than the challenge, and that is hope. Hope that one day you’ll find a way to balance those difficult days, those awful feelings that you’d rather just forget about, those horrendous memories, with the good days, the things you want to remember forever, the really lovely memories.
To get to a place where you can stop running. Where you can build a home within yourself. A home for all that is you. Both the good and the bad.
Have a lovely day.