GUESS WHAT HAPPENED IN THERAPY TODAY?
Wouldn’t you like to know? I sure as hell would like to tell you. Then I wouldn’t have to tell my therapist.
I sometimes think of therapy as a steam kettle - over time, the emotions rise. If I talk about what is happening for me in therapy with someone other than my therapist it is like taking the cover off the steam kettle. All the energy is released.
The problem is: this energy is the heart of the work. So if I release it outside the room all that potential could go to waste.
For example: My therapist tells me that she is going away for two weeks in March.
I go home and I tell my partner “My therapist is going away. I can’t believe she is going away again - she was away for three weeks over Christmas. It is like she is never here long enough for our work to deepen."
What have I done here? I let my anxiety and anger and upset bleed out of the therapy room. When I see my therapist again I am no longer so upset - I have expressed my feelings and been heard. But not by her. Something important has been said but it has been said outside the room. And as a result the feelings that I have about her holiday are not expressed in the context of our relationship. So I can’t learn what the feelings mean. And I don’t get the opportunity to experience my therapist’s response to my feelings.
The urge to talk about therapy with friends and strangers is usually a way of managing our very strong feelings about what is happening in the room.
Some of us are eager to share. Some of us share nothing. Some of us share depending on the situation. However we are with talking, not talking, keeping secrets, being reticent - whatever that brings up for us is meaningful. Therapy is a process of bringing our feelings to consciousness - of being aware of the choices we are making and how they feel. This allows us to explore ourselves a bit more deeply. There is a difference between keeping a secret and holding something for the place it belongs. This is an interesting distinction to explore in a feeling way.
Talking about therapy can be very tempting. There can be a pull - sometimes salacious, sometimes furious, sometimes anxious - always filled with feelings. Most of us do it at one time or another. And that’s OK. It isn’t a moral question. This is boundary that helps us grow. That helps us get the most out of the work.
When we bring our feelings to the person who they concern and when that person has the ability to listen deeply to us and respond, we have the possibility of moving from reflexive patterns to new discoveries. This is the edge of change.
Reflexive patterns are well worn grooves, often imperceptible. Holding a boundary that requires us to act differently requires considerable effort. But it is here that the opportunity for something new emerges.
But on the other hand - too much reticence may be a missed opportunity as well. At some point, therapy is worth talking about. Perhaps later on in the process when insights are digested and are no longer ‘live’ work. We need to talk about this work so that it is understood. This is my dream - that the brave and silent work that we do receives deeper understanding from a broader group of people. Because I think psychotherapy has a particular and important voice to contribute to this world.
I believe that in the right circumstance, simply acknowledging that you see a therapist can be an important disclosure. A strong vulnerability that creates space for another’s vulnerability.
And sometimes those outside conversations about therapy are really valuable for the therapy itself. As a therapist I am grateful to the friends who encourage perseverance with the process or speak tenderly and supportively as my clients are in pain. Sharing is good. Your life is meant to be shared. If a person’s only place where they share of themselves is therapy I hold for them the possibility that loving relationships will bloom for them over time. The line between therapy and life is not even close to clear. In fact I don’t believe there really is a line.
So this is an ongoing puzzle. We each have our own preference as to reticence versus disclosure. And in the particularity of our preference is the learning edge where deeper feelings come to the surface. Where we can share of ourselves. Where we can share what really matters to us. With our therapist and with the world.
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