I had a mindblowing therapy session tonight. I meant to post about it earlier, but when I got home, I lay down for a nap and slept for over 5 hours.
First, a confession. Even though I make every effort to be honest on my blogs, I always feel guilty posting about something “negative” because I feel like I’m supposed to be “inspirational” or something! (How narcissistic is that?) Sometimes I do feel like there’s this certain “image” I’m supposed to keep up because the honest truth is, when people tell me I’ve inspired or helped them I do feel validated and even “important” to some extent! I don’t do this all the time, obviously (there are plenty of negative, depressing posts here), but sometimes not wanting to be seen as “negative” gets me away from my true goal in blogging, which is using my ability to write as an adjunct to therapy–and that means talking about both the good AND the bad! Please understand that this does NOT mean my positive posts aren’t sincere and honest, because they definitely are, but I’ve been shying away from posting anything negative, which doesn’t help me or anyone else. It’s the “negative,” less happy posts that people sometimes relate best to, and the ones that make any blogger seem more human and authentic.
So, about what happened in therapy tonight. I feel so much better now. I got a lot of clarity on why I’ve been feeling so down and empty.
My therapist thinks that there are times (like when I was on the beach in Florida a few weeks ago), when everything is going well, that we’re more open to the truth about ourselves and about life, and it’s at those times we actually become free of whatever disorders we have that are blinding us. For a short time, we become who we really are and drop all the pathological defenses. This happens more often when people are on vacation or in other situations where “real life” isn’t getting in the way. It could happen at other times too, such as at church or when meditating, or when engaging in something creative or anything else that brings you joy. He says we are not our disorders (that’s why he hates labels); we just HAVE a disorder, but most of the time it takes control over your real personality. But there are those rare times when it takes a back seat or even disappears for a little while, and your real self can shine through. It’s at those times we can feel genuine joy. Joy doesn’t mean jumping up and down glee (that can be annoying!)–it means feeling so comfortable with yourself that you are open to the world, open to feeling everything in all its fullness, and become appreciative and grateful. It’s at these times we can even become open to the divine or the spiritual. It’s a quiet kind of joy, a feeling of well-being and feeling at peace with yourself and with the world.
That’s why the song I posted last week, “Beautiful Day,” (U2) has so much meaning to me. That’s the kind of feeling that song evokes in me and I think the lyrics do well at expressing. Only in the song, that feeling of authentic joy can be had even when everything else has been lost. It can happen at any time you’re open to it. You don’t have to be “on vacation” to experience it.
This is what happened to me. For a week or so, especially when I was sitting in the Gulf waters just appreciating nature all around me and feeling so much quiet gratitude, I was temporarily mentally, spiritually, and emotionally free. My disorders took a vacation! For a short time, I was just me, the way I was born to be. That’s why I could feel the sublime emotions of quiet joy and inner peace.
That feeling lingered even after I returned home. I didn’t become depressed or saddened right away. My therapist thinks this in itself–the fact that I was able to experience those authentic feelings at all–means I was (and am) making progress. A window opened–or perhaps even a door–allowing me to see through all the mental/emotional fog and defenses, and I was able to actually step out of it and see what’s real and true, instead of the lies I tell myself that I’ve been programmed to believe. He thinks what happened was “reality” got back in the way, and my defenses went back up. But I already knew that. There’s another reason too, and this is what almost shocked me with its clarity.
He said I have a voice in my head (not a schizophrenic type of voice, but more like an internalization of my disapproving MN mother’s voice) that tells me feeling this way–feeling joyful and at peace with myself and the world — is NOT OKAY! It’s not a conscious voice; it’s one I’m programmed to listen to and obey. It’s my mother’s voice continuing to dismiss and diminish me and dismiss my truth as a lie or as stupid. I can remember she always said things like, “don’t get your hopes up, because it’s not realistic” or shaming me: “you should be ashamed of yourself” or “you need to be realistic and not be so gullible because it’s just your imagination and not real” or “stop living in your fantasies,” or even “get real” (rolling eyes dismissively). My mother never did let me embrace or learn to love my real self. I’ve been slowly learning to do that, in baby steps and fits and starts, but it was during my vacation that I actually became free of that nagging, disapproving, shaming voice that told me all those lies.
Returning to the humdrum realities of everyday life shocked me back into listening to that disapproving and judgmental voice again, the one that always tried to make me feel guilty or ashamed for feeling happy for just being who I was.
I also realized why my happy memories always seem to get clouded and contaminated with sadness, shame or guilt. The happy memories I have, the memories of experiencing life in all its vivid colors without the filter of defenses twisting everything into something sinister, evil or bad, are still visible to me, but it’s as if I’m seeing them now through a dirty window. The door or window that was open before slammed shut, and though I can still see out of it, it’s a dirty, darker view, touched by shame and sadness. Sullied by the constant narrative that none of that was real. That’s why I have so much trouble remembering happy times without feeling a sense of great loss–because I tell myself it isn’t real, when the truth is, it’s the ONLY thing that’s real. I tell myself other lies too, like the one that says I can never feel that way again because what I felt wasn’t real and will only lead to disappointment and heartbreak. These are all lies, part of the narrative I learned from my shaming parents, especially my mother. It’s my internal, shaming, negative voice that tells me these feelings aren’t valid that is the big lie.
As I listened to him compassionately explain what he thought was going on, something inside me broke, like a wall that had been breached and finally collapsed–and silent, cleansing tears started to pour down my face. I’ve been able to cry lately in therapy. This is a very good thing and he agrees. I no longer feel ashamed or afraid to cry with him. I have enough trust now. I cried because what he said really hit home and I knew it was the truth. I’ve wasted so many years living and believing a lie and rejecting the truth — and the truth is that happiness has always been there, free for the taking, but I never grabbed i because I thought it was a lie.
My therapist wants me to find things that give me that feeling — even though it’s harder when real life gets in the way — and find things that bring me to that state, even if only for a few minutes. Music and spending time in nature do this for me, I also get that feeling sometimes in mass. I need to learn how to internalize those happy, peaceful feelings and reject the shaming ones that tell me that kind of joy is not real or something to be ashamed of.
It’s time to let the sun shine in and illuminate what’s real.