Therapy can be hard. I know I haven’t posted a lot recently, but it’s because therapy can be really hard. I mean the kind of hard that makes you hate it. It can make you hate yourself, hate your therapist, hate the whole fricking predicament. Better off to go eat at Fire on the Mountain, or play the Xbox or get lost in some virtual hangup.
But those are just temporary distractions. You came to therapy to get to work. And work we shall.
Therapy challenges what we think we know about ourselves. What you want to believe about yourself versus what you actually are. And when that button gets pushed—watch out.
Fear or Anger will be the most likely responses.
Fear or Anger directed back at your self. Fear or Anger directed at the therapist. Directed at the slow moving driver in traffic in front of you. Or directed unspecified to all the world around you in some free floating paranoid screed. It has to go somewhere. Or it fizzles out and goes back down out of sight.
The Fear and Anger can protect us for a while (temporarily, poorly) but they also separate us and get in the way of our ability to connect to other people. Because if we are too angry or too afraid, we will never let anyone get close enough to us. If they get too close they would see what was really wrong with us (or the things we believe are wrong about us).
This kind of Fear or Anger doesn’t want to be expressed directly though. We learn to hide ourselves and our awareness from it. We learn to armor ourselves to not feel these scary, awful things. These scary and awful things that your counselor just provoked.
But these scary awful things live inside of us. In our memories, in our experiences, in how we think of ourselves. These scary awful things that are constantly whispering to you, punishing you, judging you, criticizing you and making you feel smaller than you actually are.
And part of you knows that. The part that feels something is not right, and went looking for a counselor. That part of you, for all its noble intent and purpose, is going to get scared and it is going to get angry. In some way.
Those awful scary things need to be exposed, and they need to be felt to be understood. Talking about it is a good first step, but you must work to allow yourself to feel the Anger or the Fear. Because you have to fight fire with fire—psychologically speaking. You have to take back the Anger or the Fear. You have to own them, and ultimately understand why they were created in the first place.
Fear and Anger protect what we are most vulnerable to. They protect the most fragile parts of our psyche. And they can do their job incredibly well.
“I don’t feel anything about my time in captivity/in a war zone/in a abusive marriage. I’m over it. There is nothing for me to talk about anymore.”
“It’s your fault that I am angry. You brought this up, not me.”
“I don’t want to talk about my feelings. My feelings only cause me pain.”
These forces, Fear and Anger, keep us from being the best version of ourselves possible. Understanding what is beneath the Fear and Anger is being in touch with our true selves. And if you know your true self, no one can manipulate you with Fear or Anger because you have already overcome those forces yourself.
It’s the part of the movie where the evil genius tries to subdue the hero. Sometimes they do. Sometimes not. It’s Darth Vader telling Luke the truth about who his father is on Cloud City. Luke can’t accept it, can’t accept the feelings that this revelation brings up, and he nearly dies as a result. It’s Hannibal Lecter grilling Starling about the story of the lambs. It is Clarice at her most vulnerable. It is a story that connects her to her frightened younger self: just having lost her dad, in a strange place, and hearing the animals being slaughtered. She connected with the fear, accepted it, and much to Lecter’s twisted delight, she never let that fear define her emotional landscape. She grew beyond that frightened child holding that innocent lamb.
So, you want to be right? Then it’s time for you to own your scary feelings and stand up for what those feelings are trying to protect. Because no one else ever can. Even if they could, you really wouldn’t want that.
I am totally not making this up, but as I was writing this I was just listening to “I am a Rock” By Simon and Garfunkel, and it is all right fucking there, my friends. Simon and Garfunkel for the win.