Last week I mentioned green pastures and bright spots in the therapy process, and this week I will be more specific in my discussion of these encouraging developments.  If you have ever been in therapy, you know that the healing process is hard work.  As I do now on occasion, you may have wondered or you may be wondering if your efforts—all that heavy mental effort and hard work—will ever pay off.
 
Over the past thirty years, I have spent a total of ten years trying to heal, trying to decrease my C-PTSD symptoms and increase my confidence and sense of value as a human being—among other things.  I believe I am at this point an expert on the topic of “Being in Therapy” or “Being a Client.”  Therefore, since I feel qualified to speak on this topic, I say with conviction that therapy pays off in often unexpected bright spots and green pastures for those who will but hang in there and do the work.
 
If you have read my website pages (www.jfairgrieve.com), you know that I endured childhood abuse and also spousal abuse for the first forty years of my life.  One aspect of that abuse was that I learned to expect my “significant others” to be controlling, and I adapted to their control.  As a child, I was afraid to question my elders when told what to do and when to do it.  If I asked a question when given an order, my parents took my question as defiance of their authority, and I was punished.  I learned to keep my questions to myself.

When I married, I was so well trained in surrendering any power I had to the person in charge that I allowed my husband to take my parents’ place as controller.  For the most part, I allowed my husband to have the final say in household decisions, and I generally did not challenge his final word. I was afraid of him and his temper just as I had been afraid of my parents and their tempers.  When my husband came home from work in 1976 and announced that we were moving to Germany, for example, I did not want to go, but I knew that I dared not fight his decision despite the fact that it was made unilaterally. I submitted and went along with it. I had no choice—or so I thought and felt.  I didn’t dare tell him how I really felt about leaving all my friends, leaving my place in the community orchestra, turning down the job I had just been offered, a position with the county’s transportation department, and uprooting our daughter who had only recently made some promising progress at her school.  I knew my husband had made his decision and would not listen to me, and I knew if I told him I did not want to leave, he would be angry.  His rage frightened me, so I kept quiet and moved to Germany.  I had no choice, so I thought.

What does the above have to do with therapy?  Last Monday before I left my therapist, she said that one of the topics we had not discussed completely that day would be a good topic to discuss on my next visit.  Without thinking, I said, “I don’t want to be pinned down to a specific topic next time.”  I like to leave my options open, in other words. She looked at me and said something like, “Okay. That can be just one choice. You pick.”  She didn’t get angry, and she didn’t fly into a rage.  She respected my need to have flexibility.  Such a small thing, but so important! 

Later, I called her and thanked her.  After I had left her office, I had realized what happened in that seemingly insignificant and simple interaction.  For once, I had expressed myself and let another person know that I had my own ideas as to what I wanted and needed to do, and I wasn’t afraid to let her know! I simply let her know.  It was that easy!  And then I reflected on what had happened, and I realized that I needn’t be afraid to express myself, that the controlling parents and controlling husband are in the past and will never appear again.  They have been alive in my mind all this time, clinging to my unconscious mind like malevolent leeches, and they have been controlling bits of my behavior. 

They have been there when I have kept my mouth shut and let others decide for me what restaurant to visit and what movie to see.  They have kept me from speaking out when I have been asked how I would like to spend a leisurely afternoon.  But now that I am seventy-two years old, it’s way past time for them to leave. I know now that I can relegate them to the past, and I can make them stay in the past.  I can render them impotent, in fact.  I am in charge here, and I have recognized them for what they are, and I can see to it that they will no longer control any of my responses. 

After that experience and after my reflection, something inside me felt stronger.  I’m not sure what it is that felt stronger, maybe my ego, but now I’m beginning to believe that I truly can put the past in the past and keep it there.  I can jump the old neural pathways in my brain and lay down new, more functional and more beneficial pathways.  I don’t want to control anyone else’s life, but it will sure be nice to feel more in control of my own life!  I’m getting there.

Every time I wonder from now on if therapy is worth the time and the effort I’m putting into it, I will think of the example above, and I will remember where I’m going and why I’m going there.  I have already reduced the hold of PTSD over my life by doing the work to reduce the symptoms, and in the process, I am also relegating to the past what belongs in the past.  So on to even greener pastures and even brighter bright spots!

Hang in there!  Your green pastures and bright spots may be just around the next corner! 

  

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