Sometimes, when you’re in a place of confusion and feeling really vulnerable about it, someone else steps in and seems to think they know exactly what’s going on for you. And they label what’s happening for you and because you’re not sure what’s up for you, you start to think, maybe they’re right.
Many years ago, when I’d left college and I was in a total “liminal period”, as Martha Beck would call it, I started seeing a psychotherapist who really liked to label my behavior as “healthy” or “unhealthy”. This produced a pretty strong “ick” in the pit of my stomach (a sure sign that her way of working wasn’t right for my essential self), but back then I had a longstanding habit of ignoring my body and its messages.
So for six sessions, I saw this therapist and kept hoping she’d see me. I thought if I just explained myself well enough, she’d “get me.” I remember sitting in her big black pleather chair, telling her that memories from a particular period of my life had been flooding my thoughts, and they felt vivid and compelling. It felt like there was a message for me in those memories, I told her, and I wanted to be open to it.
She stared at me flatly and said, “You’re focusing on the past so you don’t have to move forward. You’re procrastinating.”
I wondered if she was right. I mean, it sounded right. But it didn’t feel right.
What I know now, years later, is that for me, moving forward often looks like going back — temporarily. Frequently, before I arrive at my next stop, I need to backtrack a little and gather, process, and integrate what happened “back there.” Maybe I’ve frozen certain emotions that need to be brought up, or maybe so much happened in such a short period of time that I haven’t yet caught up with myself.
I’ve written previously about the importance of trusting your own, unique process. If your process looks like mine at all, and you’re feeling like it’s messy and confusing and you’re pretty raw about it right now, don’t let anyone else tell you you’re “not moving forward.” Trust me: You are moving forward. You’re just doing it in your own circular, zig-zag way. It’s all good.
Your true supporters on your journey will honor, support (and even be enchanted by!) your process, your way of working through and coming out on the other side.
That’s why, a year or so after I stopped seeing the aformentioned therapist, I found an amazing therapist who deeply honored my process. And because she honored my process, I learned to honor it myself. And I came to trust myself. Fiercely.
Your true supporters may not “get you” one hundred percent, but they have faith that you know what’s best for you, and they remind you that you are on your own side. They know, as Rainer Maria Rilke said, that “what goes on in your innermost being is worthy of your whole love.”
But the most important thing, of course, is that you know this.
Image is BUTTERFLY © Martina Misar-tummeltshammer | Dreamstime.com