As I’ve dived deeper into my psyche in therapy as well as in one intensive psychotherapy training after the next, I’ve also learned something about this adaptive coping something- or -other, and that is that this quest for information and knowledge is also my strategy…
To avoid pain.
To stay safe.
To not feel uncomfortable feelings.
To be able to deal with difficult people &
To know something in my head. Where it’s safe. That will fix everything.
Knowing. Understanding. Intellectually.
And it goes back, way back. It was the thing I learned how to do to be able to live in a chaotic home environment. It was helpful, encouraged, and validated, unlike some of my other strategies, but it was a way to cope, nonetheless. Which is fine. Great even!
Until it’s not. Until I was an adult who took pleasure, cultivated an identity, found solace even in cognitive knowing, striving, and endless self-helping… but also in, bypassing, avoiding, not feeling uncomfortable things. Which is really where life and healing happen. In the being with, in the feeling into, in the sitting and being present with-ness. In the body. Not just the mind.
In the body. Somatically. That’s all the rage these days. And for good enough reason. We do, as a society, tend towards a more cognitive- behavioral approach to healing, being, and feeling our way through life, experiences, relationships, and problems. When folks ask me what kind of therapist I am, they are looking for physical or mental– health oriented answers. That’s entirely what most people believe therapy is for: to change, redirect, or control their thoughts and mind. So, it’s no surprise that many of us are cut off from the neck down. (Raises hand, I get it!)
Simply put, as children, trauma, abuse, developmental injuries, misattunement, pain, and wounding get pushed down and away so that we can survive in an environment that creates those things. Without someone there to co-regulate with us: feel our feelings with us, help us make sense of it, reassure us that we can withstand it, help us tolerate difficult emotions and feel safe, we just cannot manage all of that on our own. And if we can’t manage all of that alone, we need a way to survive. We find strategies to help us cope. Those strategies stay with us into adulthood, oftentimes creating more problems than they solve. Until we begin to explore them mindfully with non-judgmental curiosity.
What are some of your strategies? Are they helping? Hurting? Happening without your awareness, almost with a life of their own?
It’s been said that it’s actually our solutions, rather than our problems, that bring us into therapy.