Therapy is work. I won’t lie. I do not like it. I sit there for almost two hours and burn in that damnable chair. It is necessary. I almost wish it were lying on a chaise longue talking about my father and discussing my opinion of cigars. If only…
I want to try to make this applicable to you, my readers, rather than some perfunctory progress report. I also have never documented the therapeutic process. What does it look like? Everyone’s process is different. I am not avoidant in the process. If I’m in therapy, then it’s balls out for me. I charge ahead. Not everyone is like that, I know. I, however, loathe feeling like my life is happening to me, and I know that if I don’t do something to change the script, then that is exactly what will happen. The things that drove me into the therapist’s chair will continue to drive my life. I want to drive my life and determine the trajectory. Not outside negative or harmful forces. I want to have a say. I want to create my destiny. This is very important to me. I don’t believe in predestination. I believe that we are powerful creators of our present and, thus, our future. When our primary position in our life is usurped by someone else, then we have to do what it takes to return to our primary position as the star of our own story. Therapy is vital for learning skills and gaining insight so that we go about doing that in a healthy way.
One thing that is often formed in therapy is a hypothesis. You have to start with something so that you can begin viewing your circumstances through some sort of lens that will allow you to begin taking action. When my therapist began forming a hypothesis around my husband, he started with categorizing his behaviors. We already knew that my husband was anxious because he has an anxiety disorder diagnosis. What could he build around that? He seemed to be clueless, too. He has engaged in abusive behaviors from time to time, but, and this is important, was he an abuser? Did he have malicious intent to abuse again, or was his abuse a result of an amygdala-driven reaction resultant from his disorder? There is a difference, and the difference matters. Was he able to read cues meaning is he sorely lacking in social skills? Was there arrested development at play? Was he immature? Was there carry over from his dysfunctional family resulting in dysfunctional behaviors? These are very important questions which lead to a basic hypothesis. The hypothesis is then applied and tested out through asking questions and observing objectively.
How do you test an hypothesis? When I asked my husband to stop forcibly kissing me and only hug me, his response would provide information to me that I could compare with my hypothesis. Most notably, just how clueless is he? Can he read my disgust? As it turns out, he could and did. He was just kissing me anyway because he wanted to. He liked me and overlooked my apparent disgust response. This is important information because it implies a lack of or impaired empathy. It also reveals that he can indeed read emotional cues. He simply chose to ignore them in order to meet his needs. This fits past interactions that I’ve had with him.
The difficult thing about this interaction is that it required me to be assertive. I had to look for an opportunity to ask for what I needed from him, and I did not know what would happen. That uncertainty alone might be more than some people entering therapy for the first time can tolerate. It’s stressful. I was scared when I ventured forth and asked my husband to stop being coercive, but I was also more desirous that he stop than I was scared. And, this is the key. Your desire for change must be greater than your distress. There must be a tipping point. That tipping point is when you look at your situation and think, “I want something better than this, and I want it more than I want it to stay the same. I’m willing to pay the price for things to change. I want it more than I am scared.”
This desire is what creates momentum, and, ultimately, this is what makes therapy successful. Doing the homework, following the directions of your therapist, and reading the books are all beneficial. You won’t learn new skills if you don’t take in new information and then learn to apply it. In the end, however, it’s desire that pushes you through those walls that you will inevitably hit as you burn in the therapeutic chair followed by the crucible of your circumstances.
Your desire for a better life. Better relationships. Better health. A better you. That’s what will tip the scales in your favor. And, it needn’t be big. It just needs to be there. A tiny grain of want. A little bit of vision. A forgotten dream. A seed. That’s all it takes. Hold onto it, and, suddenly…