There's been a lot of post recently about people starting Therapy, or going back after a break. And it's a big step to take.
It's a process involving two people who don't know squat about each other to begin with, and when you consider our histories as Survivors we're going in with many fears.
A natural response to these fears is adopt a defence, and that's something we've had plenty of practice at !
These defences are recognised, and a good Therapist will soon recognise them and lead the client through them.
As part of the course I'm doing we had to write about defences, and as usual I wrote a personal take on the subject.
It might not be clinically correct, but I thought it might start a good discussion.
The reason some of us choose therapy and counselling is because we have reached a realization that we can no longer help ourselves with the problems we are living with.
What we need is change.
That change can be anything that affects the way we live; something that we believe will improve our life. And the chances are we have striven for that change on our own and failed, so now we seek help.
But why do we also try to undermine the help and results we are seeking by sometimes resisting that change?
We all have some fear of change for whatever reason, whether itís a new boss, new neighbours or a new way of thinking; we often fear what we donít know.
Also we have grown used to the way we are and the way we fit into our world, even if we donít like it much.
We have a certain amount of comfort there with the behaviours we have. The way we think and interact with our world haS carried us this far, no matter how bad or dysfunctional they might be.
So we cling to what we know best and erect various defences against change, even if we truly want that change.
Often these defences against change will have their roots in the behaviours and ideas that formed the basis for our survival technique, those we know best.
Denial of our problems can undoubtedly carry us a long way, and protect us for a long while from the enormity of the problems we must eventually face.
And denial is also very easy to carry into the therapistís room. We believe - wrongly - that we will be judged by what we try to deny ourselves.
We only begin to release these 'denied' innermost secrets when we feel safe and secure, and then only slowly.
Sometimes we hang onto some secrets, possibly as our fallback comfort blanket?
Displacement activity is another area I can trace back to my old behaviours and see again in the therapistís chair.
Stress makes me smoke, Iíve smoked on and off since I was 11, but I rarely smoke alone. Itís when I meet other people, even those I know and trust, that I smoke. And the concentration is on the activity of lighting up, the act.
I also did, and still do, some other things at signs of stress. I rub the top of my head, take deep breaths, look down, rub my hands together.
Quite possibly my stutter and self-conscious grin can be included here.
My stutter I include because a displacement activity is designed to distract the other person from seeing what I am actually doing or what emotion might be on display.
Mineís an occasional stutter that comes on under threat, and increases with the level of that threat, making it difficult for others to gain the truth of my words and emotions as the stammer becomes more important than the words.
Even in the safety of my therapists room I stutter, an obvious sign of my discomfort with something.
I know he isnít going to put words into my mouth for me, or finish my sentence, but itís still a subconscious way for me to buy time and distract him ( I somehow doubt it ) from what I really mean.
Lying is also easy to carry over from the old life to therapy, and I know how much lies can dominate a life and become a major survival tool.
Eventually the construct of lies is so complex it can no longer hold itself together and begins to crumble around us.
But we canít face that; the sudden collapse would be too traumatic. So it has to be a slow de-construction.
Once started - and those around us havenít fled - we hopefully begin to feel safe and release more lies, and often it feels good and liberating, so we release more and bigger lies.
But itís also easy to hang onto some of the lies, just as we continue to deny some things; we keep some lies believing they are just too great to be disclosed, that they will finally make people judge us and turn away. That fear takes a lot to overcome, a great deal acceptance and validation is needed to discover the genuine person behind the lies.
There are also many other methods of defending against change, such as withdrawing into oneself and making it nearly impossible to penetrate that persons emotions and feelings.
And the opposite, non-stop talking when we go so fast our emotions have no chance of showing through.
We can also blame others and fail to grasp responsibility for our own life, finding it easier to make excuses than help ourselves.
Anger is often a response to having experienced disempowerment, a reaction against it and a shield from the memories of shame and guilt. Again itís easy to continue to use our anger, itís a very immediate and empowering emotion thatís also a good defence, but it's often an intimidating tactic against those helping us to change.
We can also ďget in firstĒ and use shock tactics, we often tell all in every graphic detail for various reasons.
Sometimes our low self- esteem tells us that we expect nothing more than the ďinevitable judgement that we are badĒ - or we try to prove how ďhardĒ we are. Sometimes itís a device to throw the therapist off guard and gain superiority.
All these are things a therapist must be very aware of, and must not react to or pass judgment on, however hard it might be. Acceptance of the clients story will eventually diminish the clients perceived shock value, and they will come to rely on the negative defence tactics less and less.
Humour gets us a long way through our troubles, although my self-conscious grin has been the source of much trouble to me, and again humourís something easy to carry with us as a defence against change.
Itís seems so easy to disarm someone who wants you to tell them what youíre feeling by making light of it, raise a laugh and changing the subject.
But itís not easy telling jokes when Iím stuttering.
Just as the continued use of defence against change is largely sub-conscious, and something I am only recently beginning to appreciate and understand, the effort to change is a conscious decision.
This is especially true when the changes that I seek are those that I once thought impossible to make.
I know what carried me through my troubles, my survival techniques, and Iím in debt to all those tactics, I know how effective they can be. But now I realise they can also have another side to them that can, and often does, hold me back during this time of change. The survival techniques contain many natural defences, and they've been good to me; so why would I want to leave them behind ?
The more I learn the easier it is slip these restraints by changing what worked as a victim to what works as a survivor.
My old defences have to be adapted, not forgotten.