“Lately I can’t define where I am on the healing spectrum. I feel I’m moving forward till I stop dead in my tracks at encountering a ghost from my past. I find myself making more rational choices and suddenly I find an old pattern resurfacing. I committed to therapy as you said but why does this keep happening then. When does this rollercoaster end?”. This was not the first time I had a counselee ask me these questions.
As part of my introductory session prior to the healing program, I explain to my counselees how therapy and working through toxic patterns that hold us back in life, is a process. At the substance level, everyone gets it.
The real test of this understanding comes during and sometimes even after therapy.
There comes a point when after all the inner work, all the self-understanding, equipped with all the tools and resources, you find yourself struggling through an old trigger or a past memory or a present challenge and you wonder did all my hours in therapy go to waste or am I just unsalvageable.
The truth is we are human and we do not feel, think and relate within clean boundaries. Nor does life happen to us in a linear format. This notion of any process being time-bound does not apply to our inner work and external transformations
So, what does healing in real-time look like? Can healing and hurting go hand in hand? Are we still making progress if challenges keep tugging at us?
To understand this, first and foremost, we need to give our perfectly imperfect selves the concession that while therapy is happening in a safe space ensconced in complete confidentiality and isolation, real life isn’t going to treat us with these cushions. What seems achievable and sensible and doable in therapy, when put to test in life may be challenging, awkward and utter failure to begin with quite honestly. This is not our failure or failure of therapy. This is just about putting to practice the new skill in its alive environment. It’s similar to learning the strokes of swimming on land, getting them perfected, and understanding the movement dynamics. But the moment you hit that water, there are other forces that take over. The depth, coldness and resistance of water, your own fear and doubt, the survival instinct to stay afloat, the sheer fact that here you could actually drown. The sense will get overwhelmed. Not just the first time but for quite a few cycles actually till you learn to mix the learned skills correctly with the real situation.
Secondly, remember that Human memory is a funny thing. We tend to edit those past stories into narratives that help us survive and defend ourselves and therapy may just unravel the part where we are forced to take responsibility for the role we played in the directions our lives took. Even that of a victim.
This shifts the responsibility back to us. This also shifts the power of choice back into our hands. We relearn to let go of the powerlessness that kept us stuck but comfortable in the status quo. So, while we gradually feel empowered now there will be remnants of guilt or shame about why this could not be done earlier.
Also, moving from one identity to another can change our whole world upside down. The identity where our unhealed self-sabotaging “me”, now shifts to that of a self-aware “me”. The “me” who knows the rational place to function from does not take away the loss we may have experienced. More of the work on inner-self will be these episodic insights on our poor choices. You cannot do away, or rush through this discomfort. So, acknowledging your movement ahead may not cover up the grief and loss we sense from time to time.
Those moments when a trigger resurfaces, are a reminder that there still exists an unhealed part that either hasn’t been fully explored, acknowledged or genuinely forgiven and the work continues. It doesn’t mean we have regressed. It’s just a realisation of what else is left to work on.
Additionally, do remember that our old patterns resurfacing could be just the automatic learned responses coming into play simply because well, we learnt them well for so long. It doesn’t mean we have lost the work on the new self. It’s different this time. Now when the past patterns resurface you have just the resources to make a different choice, to have a different outcome. Unlearning may seem slow, but the only way is to keep pushing through every single time.
Just because you successfully resolved a current challenge, it does not take away the guilt, shame, sadness, or even confusion of a past event. Just because you unknotted a past memory, it does not take away the sense of loss you may feel in the present. Just because you mourned a past loss doesn’t mean you will never feel that pain again.
The days things are not working out are also trying to teach us something. Continue the work…these are the signs that you are on the right track since this time you aren’t walking in blindfolded. You are aware!
Dr Bhavana Gautam is a Holistic Health Coach at Rachna Restores and you can find more details about her HERE. For more such articles and content on health & wellness, don’t forget to follow us!