Recovery within Therapy

I brought a version of my last post into session yesterday afternoon. I felt a bit insecure about sharing it at first, so I just sat there silently for about two minutes. Then I wanted to have a conversation before I introduced the post, so I talked about how sometimes going to session feels a bit like going into battle. She thought that was interesting and, of course, asked me talk more about that feeling. I explained that it often feels as though I spend a lot of time both preparing for and recovering from the one hour sessions. 

There’s also a sense of uncertainty around each session; I’m never really sure what will happen. Perhaps it will be a calm hour where we connect well and everything is smooth. Maybe I will switch and experience an abreaction that leaves me curled in the fetal position on the floor. Or it could just be an hour where nothing makes any sense and I walk away feeling as though I’ve just spent sixty minutes wasting both my and her time. 

I also compared therapy to exercise, specifically endurance training. In running, for example, you set a distance to achieve. Then you create a plan to cover a certain amount of miles each week – usually with both short, fast runs and long, slow runs. You might also incorporate a run with sprint intervals to improve speed or a cadence run to work on pacing. All of this works together to help improve your overall running abilities. 

Perhaps what is MOST important, however, is the time you spend recovering from the runs. This is when your body is working to repair itself; it alters the muscles fibers, improves the vascular system, and rebuilds what has been torn as a stronger, more efficient tissue. None of those runs will matter if you do not allow the recovery process to happen.

Therapy, for me, is not necessarily this thing that happens in a vacuum. Nor does it only happen during the time I’m in a therapist’s office. It’s a process that is always happening. Having three sessions a week allows me to have the “short, fast” sessions and the “long, slow” sessions, mixed in with speedwork and pacing. Then, in that time betweens sessions, when I’m talking through the session with Wife or friends or writing this blog or doing something unrelated, I am in “recovery.” I’m allowing all of that material to marinate and settle into my brain, which helps me to integrate the things I’m learning into my life. It becomes part of my new patterns of thinking and ever so slightly shifts my worldview. 

Which is why no matter how tumultuous our interactions become, I always end up feeling okay about the therapist and about my process in general. I don’t feel completely comfortable or trusting of it, but maybe it’s not supposed to be comfortable and maybe I shouldn’t trust it entirely. Each time I end a session feeling unseen or misunderstood is awful. But I’m beginning to realize that it generally only feels awful until I can get through the difficult emotions and process what’s happening on a deeper level. Once I do that, I usually end up feeling better and experience a renewed sense of dedication or purpose to my therapeutic journey. 

Not always, but enough times that I can look to those experiences as a reminder that I’ve felt awful before and I found my way out of it. And I need to remember to let myself recover from the work we’re doing. I need to allow myself to repair and rebuild and heal the tears so that I can become even stronger, more efficient and more prepared for the next battle.