Long, long ago, in a time decades in the past, there was a younger Gail in her early twenties. At the end of my first two years of schooling, and with an Associate of Arts Degree in hand, I discovered my life to be a mess. One of my professors suggested psychotherapy. Scared of what was ahead of me, I trusted the insight of a woman who saw what I couldn’t see in myself.
When I stumbled into psychotherapy, I’d just escaped from the clutches of two years in a conservative college town that was not the normal California that I had been raised in. Having returned to the sanity of California, and desiring to get free of where I’d been, I found a therapist.
At first there was deconstruction. Deconstruction is the dismantling of who we think we are, only to discover that our beliefs about ourselves need to be challenged and examined thoroughly. Deconstruction for me took years, and several therapists. I was peeling the layers of the onion of myself; this takes time. The “it took years” can be explained by the fact that I also took breaks in the process to synthesize the movement that was occurring in my life. I needed different therapists for different portions of the road. Some were better fits than others. During my grad school years, the work took on the focus of resolving unresolved issues that would enable me to become clear headed about myself, and with my clients. Ultimately, what it all taught me was that I’d be monitoring my stuff for the rest of my life. I needed to be doing my own work with an objective party who was willing to call me on my stuff.
On the practical side, what I’ve learned from my time spent in therapy is that I’m a person who might need to step back for a few hours or a few days to sense what is really going on deep down in the soup of my head. When we listen to ourselves, we need to, and must, employ the same reflective listening that we do when in conversation with others. Do we allow ourselves to do this listening, or are we quick with a response to ourselves?
One “rubber-meets-the-road” skill that we need to use on ourselves is the pause, and then count to 100. When we’re ready to rip someone’s face off, this serves as a means to get calm, think it through, and most likely come back with a kinder response than the angry thing we were going to allow out of our mouths. How many times has pausing saved you? What if we practice this pause with ourselves?
What if the next time you were tempted to spew a list of all the reasons “I’m an idiot” for doing or saying whatever you just did or said, you counted to 100, took time to think about what you were about to do, and asked yourself the WHY question? What happens when you call yourself on your own self-talk and the scripts you run in a way that challenges all of it, the scripts and the motives for running the scripts?
There’s a huge difference between running self-destructive scripts and deeply questioning our motives for running the scripts. The former allows us to remain in the same place and feeds the illusion that by running the script we’re doing something constructive about our behavior. The latter moves us into a place of personal responsibility for our thoughts and actions and requires us to ask the “What can I do about this?” question. It requires movement, research, and further exploration that could lead us towards the therapy we need to work on situations we find ourselves in.
Next week in part two we’ll explore the subject of selecting a therapist. See you then.