I have never much been afraid to face and confront the reasons why I developed mental illness. In fact, anger, confusion, and the feeling of having no control over my life have continued to motivate my need to deal with and accept my illness. After all, if I am unwilling to face the difficult truths of my life by actively challenging them and all the pain they cause, how can I ever hope to become better?
I recently had my first session in Experiential Therapy (EP), “…a role play method through which past, present and future issues can be resolved and when combined with more traditional modalities serves to elicit material from the unconscious that allows one to fill in perceptual, cognitive and emotional gaps. Material that has been out-of-vision can come to the surface where it can be worked through and seen in a new light. (It has a) unique ability to give voice to hidden wounds has…”. I am the first to admit, when my therapist introduced the concept of EP to me, it conjured “wacky” Freudian ideas (not that EP is Psychoanalytic in nature). I wondered how concepts like Empty Chair work (ECW) could possibly be adapted into my respect for Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). However, having a very sensible (she knew how silly I felt “talking to myself”), well-educated, and experienced therapist, I was able to participate in my first session with great success, allowing my walls against “wacky” therapies to lower themselves a bit, leaving myself open to the possibility that EP has value in my therapeutic journey.
To keep it simple and to scare away as few readers as possible (LOL), I will not describe the ECW in too much detail because…well, you WILL think it sounds quite reaching in terms of validity and value. Anyhoo…ECW allowed me to reconnect to a lot of the emotions I had as a child, the time in my life when I began developing the maladaptive schemas that I am now unlearning.
I always knew I felt invalidated as a child but until this session, I never realized how deeply that invalidation had sunk itself into my everything. I came away from the session understanding that, as a child just trying to find her way through the world the best she could, I was quite often marginalized for simply being a child; my emotions were too childish, my coping abilities immature, and my capacity to understand anything…deficient. In other words, I was invalidated and belittled for not being an adult. (What a shock that I might be childish, immature, right? Geesh.)
I found myself crying for that little girl, the little girl who did not have the age and experience to give her the language to express how she felt and how very wrong adults were to criticize her for her youth. I felt sorry for her constant state of confusion, her continuous wondering as to why she never seemed to be able to please the village of adults around her. I was devastated when I realized how she internalized all that negative interaction into one question, “What is wrong with me?” I cried because she knew more about the world than adults ever gave her credit for, recognized how child-like adults actually were, and how amazingly strong she was to never stop trying to understand and improve her life.
I could have been very afraid to try a new-to-me “wacky” therapy.
I could have refused to face the emotions that came from it.
But had I run from those things, how could I ever hope to become better.
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