therapy journey

My journey to better mental & spiritual health

Tag: psychotherapy

Contemplation, medication & frustration.

I can scarcely believe that only a few short weeks ago I had the frightening complacency to write, as a concluding remark to a comment on the subject of therapy on a practitioner’s blog, “It’s traumatic to say the least but I have the sneaking feeling that ‘it’s working’ – whatever that may mean.” I really had the suspicion that the good relationship I had with my last therapist was enough to have changed me permanently. “I talk, she steers. She interprets, I listen. I confess, she challenges. She provokes, I contemplate,” I mused, smugly.

“I cannot overstate how different I feel now”, I enthused, daring to believe that all my problems had been magicked away by a few sessions of psychotherapy that in reality barely skimmed the surface. And in all truth, even a more sustained course of therapy is no panacea.

I realise now that with much sadness that my problems aren’t going away and I am looking at the possibility that no amount of positive thinking, therapy, being in love, moving to a different country, giving up alcohol, giving up having a job, and having ongoing physical health issues are going to change that. Yes all these things have happened in the recent past. Recent enough for them to take root but still to be novel, uplifting or humbling.

That doesn’t mean I’ll ever give up trying to be positive, but so often I am defeated by my simple inability to change. However, despite stubbornness, stupidity, immaturity and self-sabotage, whatever the reason, I am trying and I need to reassure myself of that. In my mind I am truly trying as hard as I can to be better, cleverer and happier but it doesn’t come across to the person that I am trying to improve myself for. My partner. I seem sarcastic when I try to be sincere. I seem absent-minded when I try my darndest to be smart. I smother when I try to be pleasant. I get angry too often and it grates. I am quagmired by frustration, self-loathing and anger and it is so horrible.

So in a last bid attempt to regain some kind of control over my temper and inner feelings of anger I wonder whether prescription medication would be the way to go?

I haven’t researched the specifics yet but I am aware that it’s certainly not to be taken lightly. I aim to use the Rethink website as a starting point. The sorts of issues that are swirling semi-formed around my head are of side effects, possible dependency down the line, and the risk of greater upsets before I find the right drug for me. I also foresee issues with my GP not being willing to prescribe a psychotropic to me – I speak from experience having gone to my doctor as a depressed 19-year old, begging for antidepressants and a “little bottle of confidence” as I wrote in my diary at the time. That was years ago. He didn’t give them to me but listened with kindness and referred me for counselling.

It’s funny, I’ve been on medication almost continually for three years now. In that time I’ve been treated for pulmonary tuberculosis twice followed by an invasive lung infection which I will have until it is cut out of me along with the cavity in my lung where it hangs out. All the time I wished for a time I could stop being on meds. In fact, I elected to stop taking my triazole antifungal for my invasive aspergillosis only a few weeks ago because I thought it might be affecting my mood. Just one of life’s little ironies I suppose.

make it work

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Therapy is no magic wand.

The therapy is continuing in lots of different ways. I’m growing and learning in ways I never thought possible and reading lots though mostly from other blogs nowadays rather than books. What I’ve learned in relation to the traditional model of therapy is that it’s only useful when I’ve believed it to be useful. That is, I, the patient, determine the usefulness of the therapy. It works if I say so.

I adopt a multi-pronged approach, and have become something of a therapy junkie throughout my journey. I have been asked by various friends and other therapists recently whether therapy is “working”. I really don’t know what to say. It clearly isn’t, because all the hours I’ve spent talking to therapists haven’t changed my behaviour in certain situations.

It took me months to find the therapist, G, that has helped me the most – by that I mean the one who I feel most comfortable with, I respect as an individual, and whose advice, analysis and agenda I most value. What I am basically saying is that I like her as a person. We get on well. We can hold a conversation.

In this way I find solace in a relationship that society says can cure me of my psychological ailments; my mental and behavioural stumbling blocks. We have preordained roles and sometimes resort to stock phrases. Like doomed lovers conducting an illicit affair, there is no preamble and no outro to our encounters, it’s straight to business. The validity of the therapeutic transaction is confirmed by the exchange of money – an amount that isn’t to be sniffed at. Afterwards I am left confused, traumatised, enraged sometimes, comforted that someone understands other times… but there is never any question that this therapy is an  unequivocally Good Thing.

I wouldn’t say I have any doubts about the therapeutic process, even if the intervention is nothing more than offloading to a nice person who understands and challenges me. I worry that surely therapy is the end of the road. If it doesn’t “work” then what else is there to try? Happy pills? Joining a cult? Self-flagellation? Going back to my bad old ways?

Where my doubts lie are in myself. I embrace therapy and I know I’m doing it right because it’s painful afterwards, the psychological equivalent of being punched in the stomach. It’s a similar feeling actually, like the wind’s been taken right out of me. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and so far I have not turned into a very tasty dish. I’m still bitter in just about every way imaginable. I’m still angry, it’s right there, bubbling beneath the surface like lava in a volcano.

Yes, deep psychotherapy has helped me understand the causes of my upsets, and makes me very sad in fact as I come to terms with a wasted childhood. But as far as its ability to make me a better person – the person I was always meant to be, before being consumed by negativity – the progress is patchy. I continually mess up, and have recently reverted to appalling behaviours that I thought were behind me.

More recently though, there has been a glimmer of hope. I have been the shining beacon that is going to help myself out of the darkness. I am in the process of making myself more resilient, empathetic, grateful, humble, forgiving and loving. It is in my power alone.

I’ve been told by someone in the blogosphere to relax and observe whether I’m resisting or allowing each moment. Go general. Find soothing, relaxing thoughts. Be easy on myself. Have fun. Take deep breaths. find things to appreciate. Don’t resist the present moment & don’t resist life.

I would like to do all of these things and keep doing them until they become second nature, regardless of the setbacks and endless barrage of feelings I contend with. I would like to experience enough constant faith in myself that even a rough patch with my partner doesn’t derail it. At the moment my entire happiness seems to be dependent on our relationship. J’s also very sensitive (though sometimes seems incredibly insensitive as a coping mechanism), so everything rubs off on him and is exacerbated ten times. That is how we got ourselves worked up into such a lather before.

Learning self-belief and acceptance are so important to individual happiness. I’m doing very well with my previous resolutions – calmness, sobriety, my own interests, not using the language of blame, and sitting above the situation in hand – and over the weekend notched up gold stars on each. I stood up for myself in a very calm and inclusive way, and realised as I spoke what is important for me as regards my life goals.

I’ve got more therapy tonight with G – my last session before I leave the country for up to 8 months. I am looking forward to discussing my issues but I hope this is the end to some of my more unproductive introspection which I acknowledge can lead to unhappiness and resentment of the status quo.

There is no magic wand, there is only belief.

May Resolutions. Being more boring.

Enough time has passed for me to accept and try to move on from the weekend’s poisonous events. Knowing that I can’t unf**k the goat, I can at least do everything I can to prevent my pattern of idiocy to perpetuate any longer.

I have done this coming to terms largely away from J, on my own and with other people, as it’s the only way I can right now. I don’t want to talk to him about any of our issues for fear of causing an upset. I believe that if I can get things sorted in my own mind, my behaviour will be nice which in turn will lead him to be nice. Then maybe we can talk but only when we’re really strong again.

I have come to realise a few things in general. Call them resolutions. Firstly, I must be calm. There is a long, painful recovery period from my abusive behaviour for both of us. I am so shell-shocked I could have behaved like I did that I get into beating-myself-up mode, which means my already battered self-worth goes through the floor. I go into a sort of denial where I expect sympathy because I see myself as the victim. It’s strangely f***ed up.

Secondly, I must stay off booze. It doesn’t agree with me. It makes me aggressive. And seeing as I don’t start feeling that I have had too many after two or four or five, it’s safer to avoid it altogether. I have recently been made aware of alarming incidents that happened years ago that I genuinely could not recall. And it wasn’t just once or twice, it was every time. My friends dreaded being out with me. I did not know that…

Next, I must retain my own interests in order to boost my sense of self. In an intense relationship, it’s all too tempting to dissolve yourself into the other, seeking validation from just one source. It seems absurd even, to devote time to friends, new experiences and hobbies that take you away from the relationship you’re trying so hard to fix. The relationship becomes a full time occupation and everything else is just a distraction. This isn’t healthy.

Number four, when a situation progresses into a conflict, I should explain how the matter in hand affects me. I can explain how this is against my values or I don’t appreciate being spoken to like that, instead of nitpicking, criticising or attacking. Sentences should start with “Right now I feel” rather than “You always… You’re such a….”

The fifth point is to do with my boyfriend in particular. He has been known to twist the knife and to wait for a reaction. He’s a great one for picking fights and winding people up, particularly girlfriends. He likes the drama of conflict (I am exactly the same!). I guess we both like it for the same reason: it reminds you that you’re not dead. I actually want to be more boring! Maybe that means staying in more, watching TV, cleaning, reading, sewing. Maybe that means agreeing with him instead of rising to the bait. Maybe that means taking a step back and observing a situation rather than being tangled up in it and powerless to see what’s actually going on. So that’s a tricky one to summarise so I’ll just say I hope to be boring, agreeable and somewhat detached.

I cannot ask my boyfriend, or anyone else for that matter, to change. I can only work on changing my perceptions and behaviour. I can change how I let the outside world affect my inner state.

To this end I attended by first CBT session on the NHS last night. I had been waiting for three months, but I realise my problems have not changed a jot. I only have time for one session before I leave the country and will therefore have to wait six months or so until I am back to arrange a course of sessions. However it was still useful. The therapist drew three bubbles, the emotion I felt during the incident, the thoughts that were going through my head as a result of that emotion, and the behaviour that is manifested by the thoughts. The chain that we seek to break in the CBT process is between (irrational) thoughts and behaviour. I was challenged, which is very important to my recovery.

I was given two online resources I can use while away. They are Moodgym and the Centre for Clinical Interventions.

When I return here in a few months, I hope to continue with the CBT which deals very much with the here and now, and concurrently to take the NLP/ Biodynamic/ Integrative Arts psychotherapy approach in which I can address childhood issues. I’d like to think of recent events as minor speedbumps, not proof that I am beyond help.

Deepening the pool. Childhood memories.

How can I rise above the sadness of a wasted childhood? How can I right the wrongs of the past? Am I damaged? Can I change? Does identifying negative influences and conflicts that were already a part of me aged five help me grow today? The therapy session yesterday was pretty hard going and felt like quite a trauma but I’m happy to have done it.

The main exercise was to imagine the five year old me is sitting on a cushion in the room. She was sitting there, trying not to notice me: the current me. She makes like she isn’t interested, but when I look away, she takes a sideways glance at me. She has a lot of curiosity but not in a typically childlike way as she feels nervous in the company of others. So, she sits there, withdrawn. What do I say to her? If I could say anything what would I say?

The things I wanted to say, she wouldn’t understand. I want to tell her she must have the strength to be true to herself. I want to tell her she must find her own happiness. I want to tell her it’s OK to be who she is. Trust yourself. I want to tell her that it’s good to be open to love and laughter. Get out of your head more. If I could tell her just one thing, I’d say “enjoy now”.

But she wouldn’t understand these things. Instead I notice what she’s looking at. She’s spotted a boy playing outside. He’s riding a bicycle. I ask her if she wants to go and play outside as well, but she isn’t allowed. It’s not safe. Maybe we can play together? She doesn’t want that either, and she’s squirming and getting uncomfortable. How do you feel about that? I know what she’s thinking; she wants to be on her own again now and doesn’t like this adult asking questions. No-one asks her how she’s feeling and she doesn’t have any language to convey what she perpetually feels, which is jealousy of others, self-loathing, feeling different, confusion about the messages she’s getting, anger, resentment. There are good sides to: things she looks forward to like playing football and messing about outdoors, but they are temporary distractions from the turmoil she – I – have always felt.

When I speak to myself as an adult I use what my therapist G calls the ‘critical voice’. I’m constantly aware of G picking me up on this trait I have when I talk about some aspect of myself. I have heard it said that the way we treat ourselves mirrors the way our parents treated us as kids. My parents were highly critical and I grew up in a household ruled by a noxious lifestyle choice – organised religion. There were a lot of commands beginning with “you must always” “you should never” “you’ll go to hell if” “this way is the only way”. I was forced to get my head around serious, adult concepts. I was told that life on earth doesn’t matter as long as you follow religion, because what we’re living for is the afterlife. I was told that anyone that doesn’t follow the same religion as us is a sinner and is going to hell. I suspected from an early age that my parents’ religion was not for me but I had no other person to give my feelings validation or to offer an alternative value system.

This little five year old girl, she is told that some of her friends are sinners. But she sees their households are filled with laughter, hobbies, siblings, activity and affection. For the first time she sees two adults – her friend’s parents – embracing each other and even she notices there is love there. She doesn’t have siblings herself and her parents aren’t in love with each other. And yet adults constantly comment how lucky she is to be an only child. She must be so spoilt! She is so sick of hearing that and it frustrates her that they could be so wrong. She pulls away whenever they try to grab her big cheeks or stroke her curly hair.

I didn’t feel like a child when I was a child. I was party to adult things, not just religion but extramarital affairs that it was just expected I would keep to myself. I was used as a pawn in my parents’ constant battles. I spent my childhood wishing it away, feeling different to others, crippled by shyness, waiting to reach a certain age when I presumed everything would just fall into place. And as an adult I have behaved very childishly. Until I embarked on this journey I wasn’t a fan of taking responsibility for myself. I used people. I took stupid risks. I rebelled. I pissed people off with my erratic or petulant behaviour. I hurt people needlessly. I refused to change or to have an open mind. I was selfish.

That five year old on the cushion seemed like flesh and blood. I can see how she had her hair and what she was wearing. She’s only a memory, distorted by hindsight. But I know how to talk her language and teach her sensitively. It’s not easy going back there but I owe it to myself to look after her.

Overthinking and freedom from prison.

G, my psychotherapist, pointed out that it was obvious the inflated emphasis I put on cerebral activities. I had not realised before that there was an alternative. My mind is always crowded with thoughts about something and nothing. These aren’t necessarily productive thoughts such as ideas, but can instead be circular, neurotic, mildly paranoid and self-sabotaging.

Perhaps I seek validation for my overthinking in the books that I read. In the same way I gain comfort from writing neat little accounts of my progress, reading books loosely about self-improvement helps to rationalise, provides solace, and in a sense, to shuts me off from experience with the excuse of ‘yet more research’. But nevertheless, I feel it’s beneficial and interesting to read in order to get the ideas under my belt with which to really live my life.

It is through books and the internet, alongside talking to therapists and reaching out to others that I am slowly developing a sense of the other side that’s out there. This other side isn’t even out there, it’s already here, within me. The opposite to materialism, the opposite to depression, the opposite to enslavement, the opposite to overthinking. So G can say that I use my head a lot more than my feelings, but for me this is a huge step up. It was not that long ago that my feelings were overpoweringly, cripplingly depressive and I was too fragile to contemplate anything like self-improvement with the ultimate and ongoing intention to set myself free from the constraints that are mere figments of my imagination.

There’s a passage in F**k It Therapy that really made me laugh and wake up to what freedom isn’t.

“But most of us have a fantasy about freedom. And that’s why those movies and music work on us, but not because we’re free and on the open road of life. Do you think the true rebels and pioneers are watching Thelma and Louise and listening to The Clash? No, they work on us because we’re still in our chains. Do you know how many white-collar workers there are out there with big motorbikes? Do you know how many Audi drivers listen to Eminem? How many grandfathers are listening to punk? How many media people say ‘cool’? How many of the dudes at school became financial advisers? Don’t knock them. It’s probably me. It’s probably you.” – F**k It Therapy by John C. Parkin.

The book tells you how to identify the prisons that you are unwittingly incarcerated in and then to change them if you want. We are imprisoned by the constant and ultimately fruitless search for meaning when it isn’t there in those places where we seek. A sense of perspective on life is important. The stories we surround ourselves with imprison us. We have an idea about who we were, who we are now and who we’d like to become. The human state is to move from naivete to experience, from playfulness to seriousness, getting older, weaker and wearier all the while. These stories don’t reflect reality; life resists the stories we tell in order to try and fix everything.

So we have the prison of our search for meaning in the wrong places. We have a prison of our stories. We also construct a prison if our aims take over our lives. We construct prisons of thought. A thought-less life is not what’s being advocated, merely the suggestion that eschewing an entirely thought-based approach to life can open you up to amazing things. This speaks to me and is very timely in the light of being ‘diagnosed’ a chronic overthinker. The other prisons we might find ourselves in including fixing ideas to ourselves. These might be religious, materialistic or spiritual beliefs. Hold all ideas lightly, is the f**k it approach. Sure, dip your toe here, dabble there, get a new perspective there. The one possible spiritual truth, Parkin dares to venture, is that we are all connected, maybe even all one. Our perception of separation is an illusion that creates suffering.

My own personal prisons are:

1) my unwillingness to change and push my boundaries. However I have done a lot to confront this issue over the past 12 months. 2) my reliance on thinking… – now that I know about my habit to over think – and have awareness there is an alternative – I will try not to give much attention to those persistent and nagging thoughts. 3) …and the anger and negativity that this leads to. This is the biggest and scariest problem that I have. I am acutely disappointed every time I let myself, my partner and my friends down.

 

Getting to know and tame my rebellious inner child.

So, I came back from what I call my hardcore therapy session yesterday evening fragile and quite sad. I think this the real and emotional response that I’ve tried so hard to deny and suppress, even on this difficult personal journey. The therapy in question was provided by the proper NLP-based, Integrative Arts psychotherapist that I refer to as G. I hadn’t seen her for over three weeks. I realise for sure now that I have found the right person to help me. The fact that it isn’t easy – that it’s quite uncomfortable at times and very close to the bone – helps me to appreciate that this is the right route for me.

I was taken back to childhood again, which I always find quite upsetting because I realise how lonely I felt, how I never got the memo that it’s imperative to express yourself and find out who you are, how I felt unworthy and not valid compared to others. I spent a lot of my time wishing I was someone or something else. Frustration, jealousy, selfishness and self-hatred were amongst my earliest feelings. I somehow got the wrong messages growing up. My parents never did anything wrong, like scald me harshly, or beat me, or make me feel I was worthless. On the contrary, they provided enough materially, sent me to an expensive school, encouraged me to perform well academically, provided religious guidance, and generally made my life as risk-free as possible. In short they gave me all the assurances and comforts that their parents couldn’t give to them.

What it lacked I think was being truly heard and listened to, which is something that today I desperately feel I need. I get very angry when I feel I’m not being understood, perhaps that might be because I can’t express myself clearly. I also missed having the support of a parent, someone that tells you that your dreams are valid and you should go and do the things that make your heart sing. Again today, I make totally unreasonable demands on my partner to support me unconditionally, which of course no human being alive is entitled to expect. And finally, I lacked the coping mechanism when things don’t go as I planned them. My parents made everything cushy, there were no real challenges to deal with. The voice that says ‘I want it my way’ ends up being my saboteur.

Behaviour roleplay

There are four types of behaviour that orbit the satellite of the Adult. The Adult is centred, rational, mature and grounded. There are other sides to this Adult however. There is the Nurturing Parent who shows kindness to the child and supports all of his needs. There is the Critical Parent who judges, attacks, criticises and might as a result make the child feel worthless. There is the Rebellious Child who simply wants things his own way and doesn’t listen to reason. There is lastly the Adapted Part that wants to please the parent, and whose behaviour shifts according to what is expected of him.

Using a painfully recent disagreement as an example to illustrate where I fit into all this, it is quite clear that my behaviour is that of the rebellious child (with a smattering of critical parent). In the example, I didn’t get things my way, so rather than deal with it calmly and adhere to an alternative plan, I became irate, irrational, throwing blame around like it was going out of fashion, calling the other person stupid, and finally refusing to go through with any sort of plan when the other person begged me to. It took me hours to regain anything resembling composure and even then my seeming amicability didn’t last, and there have been more upsets since then.

What the rebellious child wants is to get his way, to be listened to, and for unconditional love. What the child wants is for the other to be untrue to himself. The rebellious child demands total submission. It’s disgusting and terrifying and I don’t really know how I got to be like this. It’s terrifying. I still have this awful concern that I am not going to change and all these little love affairs with spirituality or therapy or whatever’s flavour of the month will be over as quickly as they began, cast aside like a used whore.

The subject of my reliance on thinking/writing also came up. G came to the conclusion I use my strongly developed mind instead of my feelings. I justify and rationalise all kinds of things, that then have an effect on my behaviour. And once poisoned thought becomes feeling then action, all hell breaks loose. G asked me to consider how I feel once I’ve written 900 words that perfectly sum up my mood. I said I felt satisfied, like after eating a big dinner. I’ve put something into a tidy little box, with a title and tags and correct diction and punctuation. It’s all so neat and snug. I can draw a line under it once I hit Save or Publish. But does all this thinking actually perpetuate the problems of an overactive mind?

Craniosacral therapy the second time round.

Doing all these different therapies gives me a chance to evaluate where I am from one set point in time to another, as I can see how far I have come from one session to the next. Today I went for my second cranio-sacral therapy treatment (CST). Around 7 weeks had gone by since my first session and I remember how different I felt then while talking to the practitioner, B. When asked about how things are for me, there is a tendency to talk about whatever’s going on in relation to what my mindset was the previous time. I remember feeling very different the last time I was sat on that couch in B’s therapy room. Today I felt really fine. I have no conflicts, internal or external, that I know of. I have no stress in any part of my head or body (apart from the right shoulder blade where I hold tension and I am becoming increasingly aware of the discomfort there). I feel lucky to have the bounty the universe has bestowed upon me and I am at great pains to be thankful and kind in this moment to all that inhabit the earth.

I got up on the bench and the treatment began with meditative breathing. B placed his hands on my shoulders to start with. The contact is so slight there I wonder if there is contact at all. We stayed like this for probably ten minutes and I felt so very relaxed, almost as if I could nod off at any moment. He asked how I felt and I said very fluid and stress-free, consciously aware of every part of my body that touched the bench and feeling those points melt into the bench. There was a long pillow underneath my upper thighs, meaning my lower back was flat against the bench rather than being arched upwards, which was a blissful feeling. He next placed his hands under my lower back. He stayed there for 5 minutes or so. While he was there, I had the sensation of shivers going up my spine twice. He said it’s quite normal for the body to perform strange movements and have unusual sensations while the lower back is being treated. It’s the spine’s energy being released.

He moved on to my head and behind the neck. I didn’t feel such a strong feeling of any kind. I felt totally relaxed, or so I thought. After I was off the bench, I asked him what energy he felt in me. He said that my nervous system wasn’t giving of itself today. It isn’t anything to worry about but there just wasn’t such a strong reaction as the first time, when I felt my skull moving. It takes time to build rapport, and so much time had passed since my last CST session too, so it’s normal that my nerves weren’t quite so receptive. There was a block in my energy, an impasse through which B could not penetrate.

According to their website, CST has been said to provide for patients, “comfort, inner peace, a sense of relief, deep stillness and relaxation, connection, feeling accepted, feeling more fully alive, feeling whole again”. This time round, I cannot say I experienced any deep peace and satisfaction which I did during my first session. It was relaxing, yes, and it felt like it had meaning – but this could be the experience of being in close proximity to another human being who is proferring healing. The feeling of being pampered and being given permission to enter fully into a moment is a compelling reason to give it validation.

blue skies

Fruit & the truth ripen simultaneously.

At my psychotherapy session yesterday I spoke about the positive changes that I’ve been going through. It was good for me to voice them hence giving to them the real weight they deserve. It makes them feel more real to me, as I don’t talk about them to anyone else. The changes are real and will be lasting – at the most fundamental I have to believe that. The new me is young, G says, and must be both allowing and nurturing.

I am training my beat-up psyche both to allow ‘bad’ states of being when they occur; and to nurture the positive ones. Years of conditioning and wallowing in misery have made contentment all too short-lived when it does occur, and it’s time to break out of that cycle once and for all, slowly so it sticks. It has cost me many years of thwarted happiness, even wilful unhappiness. The new way of being will unfurl gradually like a fruit ripening. Savouring each moment whatever mood states it holds, because it’s all I have. From Kabat-Zinn:

“It is best to encounter each moment with freshness, its rich potential held in awareness. We look deeply into it, and then we let to into the next moment, not holding to the last one. Each moment then can be fresh, each breath a new beginning, a new letting go, a new letting be.”

I talked about the current happiness in my relationship, and G asked why is is like this now. What characterises the happiness? I think it is the easeful and considerate communication we have established for one thing. How is it that in becoming more tolerant, we actually become more considerate? Strange really. I guess that is the power of rapport. Secondly I no longer resent not having time to “myself”. I really love the times when I am around my boyfriend. This might sound like I’m losing sight of who I am or something, for the sake of my relationship but not at all. As I said this out loud, I realised for the first time that this is a truth of mine: I have the strongest sense of self at the present time than I have ever experienced at any time in the past. I hope this powerful feeling continues, and I will make it. It feels brilliant right now and that’s what matters. Not the worries that it is illusory, or temporary, or will become inadequate. These are all just non-existent potential problems with my perception. I have stopped making problems or myself, and instead accept that I cannot control outcomes, only my own thoughts and actions.

G said it this is a momentous transformation that I am undergoing. Knowing that all the resources I require for it were in me all along is a huge thing to take in. All this time I was looking for other people, places, connections, prescriptions and stimulants. I’m finally ready. But couldn’t have done any of this until the time was right. I have decided to be at cause in my universe.

“The journey is one of heroic proportions, but so much more so if enlivened by wakefulness and a commitment to adventurous enquiry. As a human being, you are the central figure in the universal hero’s mythic journey, the fairy tale, the Arthurian quest […] this journey is the trajectory between birth and death, a human life lived. No one escapes the adventure. We only work with it differently.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are.

Therapy. NVC. Forbidden fruit & the 7-year old child.

I have had a couple of therapy sessions in the past few days. One with F, who I saw for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I also tried out a new therapist whose specialism is in integrative arts psychotherapy.

During the meeting with F, which was my second and probably last session, I talked about the current estrangement I was experiencing at the time with my boyfriend, and how to go about achieving the resolution I was hoping for. It wasn’t something that I really needed to discuss with a therapist, but it was so pressing on my mind, I couldn’t help it. Anyhow, the matters have now been resolved and with time (without the counsellor’s help), I decided that the discussion in question didn’t need to happen in the prescriptive way I was envisaging.

However during the meeting F told me about Non-Violent Communication (NVC). He summarised the four points of managing a conflict as: firstly locating the incident. Secondly, relating the incident to the other party, using factual ‘I’ statements. Thirdly, explaining your underlying need or value using ‘because’. Lastly, a smart request in which you seek a change or compromise from the other party in the future.

All very well but I didn’t end up using anything like this because a formal conversation didn’t happen. When things get tough, I remember that love is all, and I remember to be mindful of the present moment and sometimes that is enough. A week-long cooling-off was enough to bring love and togetherness back to my relationship, without any recourse to complicated and painful feelings and experiences that we’ve tried hard to put behind us. I am happy with this, though it’s taken time.

Love is all

A couple of days after, I saw another new NLP therapist, G. She is the best therapist I’ve seen so far. She is the first one I’ve seen that isn’t just perplexed by me and I have an instant rapport with. She challenges and stimulates me. She doesn’t get stuck for things to say and directions to take the dialogue. She talked nearly as much as me, which is what I want. Otherwise I go off course and start talking about just the current thoughts that flit through my mind, instead of the deep stuff that needs work and I need challenging on. G crammed many things into our hour. She asked me questions – the usual stuff about what my issues are and what outcomes I anticipate – but she also uses visualisation exercises, roleplay and games to find out how we really feel about ourselves and others. She asked me to for one word that sums up how I feel about my childhood, and it was quite sad really, I said ‘lonely’. That was honestly the first thought I had. My childhood was not filled with a cast of characters; people were sparse and not giving of themselves.

Despite (or because of) this I revelled in time alone, and used to relish secretly the time when both parents were out at work because their shifts overlapped. I talked about something that I had not voiced probably to anyone, certainly not for years. When I was little, my mother would forbid me to play with the other kids that lived on our safe little cul-de-sac, mostly boys very slightly older than me. I really wanted to play with them as I thought they were incredibly cool. One day when she was taking a nap, I took her house keys, let myself out and met up with the boys. We played in the allotments and had fun. She came to the allotments in a rage, having worried herself sick at not being able to find me. Of course this was acutely embarrassing for me in front of my new playmates. The reason she forbade me from playing with the boys and girls in our street was because in mum’s eyes, they were of a lower social standing as they attended state schools and I didn’t.

It made me wonder how it is the forbidden tastes so sweet. The very fact it is forbidden makes me want it even more. Over my childhood years and into early adulthood I had unhealthy attitudes to lots of practices and behaviours that were deemed immoral by my parents. If they’d only given me the freedom to experiment and take calculated risks when I was growing up, perhaps I wouldn’t have needed to take more foolhardy risks when I was older. Yet at the same time, underneath all the bravado was a split personality – someone incredibly shy and risk-averse.

But back to the exercises set by G. She asked me to picture myself as a child and asked me what age this child was and what she was feeling. I said she was 7, starting school, as I still have an image in my mind of a photograph of myself at this age. She’s feeling awkward, nervous and out of place. Her clothes are hanging off her small, skinny frame as her school uniform is two years too big for her. It’s sensible to buy clothes she will grow into. At school she is really shy and won’t put her hand up in class even if she knows the answer. She wonders why everyone else makes friends so easily and feels very jealous of the other girls.

G asked me to give a piece of advice to the 7-year old me. I said ‘take responsibility for yourself’. G said the 7-year old wouldn’t understand that. She is frightened, standing there in her too-big clothes. I honestly don’t know what advice I would have given the 7-year old. ‘Don’t be afraid to love’? ‘Find the confidence to be yourself’? ‘Respect others and yourself’? It made me feel quite sad to be honest, as I really felt that the 7-year old me was there in the room, silly as that sounds.

Despite all I should know about accepting myself, I realise by the language I was using to talk to the therapist, I still don’t. The matter of my recent efforts to improve my relationship came up. I explained some things that I had done, having finally realised that this was the correct course of action. Then I said that I felt annoyed that I hadn’t done these good things sooner – and that was the critical voice creeping in. I should take steps to notice this voice.

I realised at the end of my session with G that I still have a long way to go. I’ve said it before: even though I feel immensely calm, blissfully content, serenely happy and appreciatively satisfied the vast majority of the time, I am not out of the woods yet.

Reaching out to the world. Getting to know you.

Hi readers

This is me reaching out to the world as I begin my journey into counselling, body and soul healing, and alternative therapies. This blog is intended to be a record of my progress and my thoughts and feelings along the long, hard road.

The problems I need to address are many and varied but in a nutshell:

I am a very angry and aggressive person. I guess it would be true to say that over time, I have developed strategies for dealing with and managing this in front of other people. But often I find myself seething inside, with terrible bad feelings often mixed with neurosis and circular thought patterns.

I am a very negative and critical person, often quick to put others in their place undeservedly, or to cast a gloomy mood over a happy situation. I am guilty of seeing the worst in a bad situation or of “predicting” that everything I do is going to be a failure – which is a self-fulfilling prophecy of course.

There are other issues too which I will explore in more detail in future posts.

I’ve written a sort of manifesto which I’ve included below.

anger

The path that has led me to the point I’m at now – the point of self-analysis, admitting where my flaws lie, and resolving to do something about it – is largely due to troubles I’ve had in my relationship. My partner (“J”) some months ago identified some disturbing traits that are inherent in my behaviour but it has taken this long for the situation to be the right one. He suggested CBT as a possible route, having taken a course of treatment himself in the past.

I could have lost my relationship because of my problems. I’m not saying all our difficulties were my fault, but I certainly didn’t treat J with the real love and respect that he deserves. And a lot of the time he was reacting to my “abusive, aggressive, rude, selfish, spoilt” behaviour. And I totally agree with that.

I am trying my utmost to feel like a normal person again, who’s strong and doesn’t lose sight of what is important in life.

I need to trust myself again and understand why I blow up the way I do so that I can prevent it from happening again, and again, and again and ruining my life and the lives of those close to me. I don’t suppose that bringing me up was a bed of roses so I hope that one day I can have a mature relationship with my parents too, if only to be able to reciprocate the love they have for me.

Getting rid of my demons is a huge challenge and a change that will be ongoing for the rest of my life probably.