Everything was ticking along rather nicely in therapy, until circumstances took an unexpected turn three weeks ago. I’ve managed to keep my head above the depression, but it has been difficult to write or read other blogs… my apologies. Thankfully, the worst of it’s slowly edging away like a stormy weather front.
I have spent months sharing past memories, edging through childhood trauma, recounting the years of sexual abuse, and trawling the effects of growing up with narcissistic parents has become one of the most enlightening and validating experiences of my life.
During those developments, my head felt as though it was in an endless chaotic loop. I steamrolled ahead and experienced a number of lightbulb moments along the way and even the odd bolt of lightning, but it was a relief to feel the intensity of the issues start to fizzle out.
I reached the end of that process and was surprised to feel completely empty, I still do. Last Friday, I missed group and then on Wednesday afternoon I dragged my stubborn reluctance along to my session with Paul, uncertain what we would talk about for 50 long minutes.
I’m still trying to understand what the terms, “letting go,” and “moving on” actually mean, which is one of the reasons why I came to blogging in the first place. I used to think they were two of the same; once we let go then we automatically move on.
My experience is that it’s not just about leaving the past behind and then skipping merrily on our way. To ‘let go’ is more about coming face to face with who I am in the present moment.
It seems to me that while we may recover from difficult experiences in our past, moving on from the emotional and psychological baggage does not necessarily happen simultaneously.
While I did recover from an attempted murder experience, it didn’t spontaneously change the PTSD and Agoraphobia diagnoses. It’s similar with childhood trauma, I may heal from the actual traumatic experiences, but it will take time to alter the effects that still ripple through my life today.
When I was thinking about this post, I googled “stuck in therapy” and came across a term I had not heard of before, “Resistance,” which is what we do to protect ourselves from our biggest fears. It’s when we convince the potential enthusiasm that something is not so important, when in reality, it is.
A perfect light hearted example of my own resistance – and I hate to make this admission – is my fear of creepy crawly spiders. I’m reluctant to admit the true extent of those fears because there are some big mother spiders in London.
Now that I live alone, I resist admitting my fears in the hope of conjuring enough bravado to catch the bionic blighters in a pint glass. If all else fails, I can eventually retreat to bed pretending I don’t care if the hairy-legged-mother successfully navigates its spiteful way into my bedroom.
That may well be a funny example, but ‘resistance’ can also take the shape of much more insidious behaviours, such as recalling painful experiences but failing to connect with the emotion, or having dissociative lapses in memory during therapy. Some people might rewrite history to protect whatever fear they resist the most, or decide we are bored or disheartened with sessions and then feel angry with the Therapists when we perceive them as a threat or believe they no longer meet our needs.
Apparently, we’re constantly grappling with resistance throughout our therapeutic journey. Sometimes there are moments of fluidity and clarity, when we embrace new realisations that were previously resistant to our fragile minds. At other times, we just don’t get it and continue to subconsciously battle with the things that piss us off the most.
Of course, most of us are not aware when resistance is playing tricks with our minds, which is a rather daunting prospect. The thought of reaching the end of my therapy programme before realising I’ve been avoiding the issue that needs the most attention, is almost discouraging.
When I started therapy, I imagined letting go to be the conclusion, but it’s actually just the beginning.