After quite a bit of thought, I’ve decided to take a break from sessions with Therapist 2.0. Don’t panic, this isn’t me doing my usual back away when things get tough. It’s actually quite the opposite. I’ve come across another therapist, let’s just go ahead and call him 3.0, and he’s helping me to build on the compassion focused work I did with 2.0, and take it a step further. How? By helping me find out what is at the root of all the difficulties I’ve experienced over the years.
Just as 2.0 worked in a completely different way to 1.0, this is very different to what I was doing with 2.0 as well. A lot of what she gave me was knowledge – about how our minds actually work, about the interaction between our physiology and emotion, and about the power of self-compassion. Now, what I’m learning is how my very earliest experiences have shaped me to become the person I am today, something that can be said for each and every one of us.
It’s been eye-opening to say the least. As far back as the pre-dbt assessments last year, the word ‘trauma’ was used in relation to my past. To be honest, that scared the shit out of me, because at that point I associated trauma with a major event, something that would be traumatic for an adult. What I’ve come to realise is that needn’t be the case at all. Trauma for children can be something that wouldn’t even register on an adult’s radar. I see it with my own kids all the time – they get absolutely overwhelmed by something seemingly inconsequential. I have two choices in responding to that overwhelm. I can dismiss it as being unimportant and irrational (from my adult perspective), or, I can take a step back and try and look at it from their perspective.
For example, my daughter has become quite anxious of late, and is genuinely afraid that the bridge we cross everyday to get to school will fall down while she’s in school, and I won’t be able to get to her. My initial response was to minimise it – the bridge is fine! – but that did nothing to allay her fears. The next attempt I made was to plan an alternate route to the school, so in the event that the bridge did actually fall down, I’d still be able to get to her. That helped a little but not quite enough. Then last week, I noticed that the crack that was the source of all this angst was in fact the result of road repairs, where the tarmac had been relaid, so on the way home I stopped to show it to her, and explained that it meant the bridge was actually stronger than before. Her little face lit up. She got it.
This has genuinely been causing her anxiety for weeks. How many other times has she, or my boy, been anxious or scared of something that didn’t make any sense to me? How many times have I potentially missed the opportunity to help her work through something that is bothering her?
This is what’s at the crux of what I’m doing with Therapist 3.0. I’m looking back, and I’m trying to find whatever it was, be it just one event or more than one, that has been influencing my thoughts and behaviour all these years. And how do I do this? By letting myself think. By stopping the constant flow of distraction, worthy or otherwise, and just letting me brain do the work it needs to do. Honestly, the hardest part in all of this so far has been getting my head around it.
Therapist 1.0 carried me through years of crises. Therapist 2.0 gave me knowledge that has literally changed my entire outlook on the world. And Therapist 3.0? He’s helping me find the answers that will free me.