Therapy is pretty intense. Yesterday, just before it was due to start, I felt more nervous than I had when I first started four years ago. It’s not just like you’re facing yourself in a mirror, it’s like an out-of-body experience, looking at yourself from the outside and not knowing what you might find. Therapist silences are deliberate, and they are intended to liberate. Whilst I might be self-censoring this, here, this placing of myself into the public domain, there can be no self-censorship in therapy. And therapist silences are there to allow us to come even more out of ourselves, to encourage (not provoke) us to keep talking, to keep emptying our minds out into the room (virtual nowadays). When a therapist speaks it’s to guide or to counterpoint, or to make a gentle suggestion. My therapist has never said “do this, do that,” and only ever suggested things I might want to try. Ninety minutes of therapy after no therapy at all for 18 months is pretty hardcore.
When I finished my first set of therapy three years ago, I put together The Eight Lessons Of Therapy and hung them on the wall over my desk. That piece of paper was the first thing I hung on the wall in this new study after it was built last July. After yesterday’s therapy, I need to change it to The Nine Lessons of Therapy, because I learned something new yesterday, or should I say, I finally consciously learned it, because it’s been swimming around in my head for a while but has been something I tend to forget. So…
The Nine Lessons Of Therapy
- You are not alone.
- There is no need to catastrophise.
- Take 10 seconds not to think, and then consider.
- The middle ground is the most fertile.
- Make time for yourself.
- Past pain will not disappear but can be mitigated.
- Negative emotion can be used constructively.
- Reflective thinking + emotion = understanding.
- Ask questions rather than offering solutions.
The interesting thing is that we came up with the last one yesterday as an initial coping mechanism for me when I worry about others in my life going through a bad time, when I am always eager to come up with what I think is a bomb-proof solution to a problem rather than letting them work through problems and come up with a solution themselves. And I also suddenly, in a lightbulb moment, while we were talking realised that I could just as easily apply that to myself when I keep running round in circles trying to give myself solutions for my problems when I should be asking myself gently guiding questions that might make me less fraught and less expectant of quick fixes. It also chimes with what my acupuncturist said about me, that I’m a man who’s always looking for a quick fix rather than letting my body heal itself naturally and in its own time.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 75