If you currently work with a helping professional, or have in the past, you know that there are times when a session just completely knocks you backwards. You begin to question everything you’ve been working on so far and every part of your very being is in doubt.
I’m talking literal soul crushing revelations that don’t just cause you to pause and reassess, but rather the times when absolutely nothing makes sense and you wonder how in the world you can possibly go on. Your survivor journey is at a pivotal stage, and it’s a 50-50 shot as to which way you will go. Do you decide to take a break, or perhaps completely give up…or do you sit with the feelings, try to understand them and fight through the invalidation you have just been hit with?
Sometimes taking a short break to regroup is a good idea, but completely giving up simply cannot be an option. But I would be lying if it hasn’t crossed my mind before, I’m only human just like anyone else and this healing journey ain’t no walk in the park.
When you get a devastating realization, it’s very easy to go down that road of shame or start hitting the Anger button, or a combination of both which can then lead very easily to depression. A feeling of no way out because something that you thought you knew, embraced, and understood is suddenly under attack.
One of the main things that a helping professional does is to help us reach deep down inside our feelings and pull out that which is uncomfortable to deal with. This way we can understand it, learn from it, validate our feelings, and continue working towards healing.
In that work though, either inadvertently or purposefully, sometimes we end up pulling apart a good memory. A memory that we have held dear and so close to our heart, at times one that has been one of the single bright lights in our entire existence.
A memory like this is one that we hold on to with great pride. It makes our eyes light up we talk about it, smiling from ear to ear, and there’s a noticeable shift in our demeanor at the very mention of it.
This is where the rubber meets the road and we have to decide how to go about handling this.
It’s bad enough when we are invalidated in any way, that’s devastating in itself. When someone starts picking apart a precious memory and finding any type of fault whatsoever, well that’s a whole new thing.
An internal war can start and you are caught in the crossfire. A battle between that memory and your helping professional.
On one side, you have the professional who has our best interests at heart and wants us to heal, which means working through everything that comes up, in any capacity. On the other side, you have that memory who’s fighting to stay as important and meaningful as it always was.
You’ve held onto this part of your life as something amazing, beautiful, cool, and just plain awesome. A highlight of your very life to date.
This grand memory can take on many forms. Perhaps it was a time in your life when everything was just right and you were on top of the world. Or maybe it was a onetime event, or person that you always recall with fondness. I encourage you to think of your own such memory.
All of the sudden you have someone attacking it, ripping it apart, and telling you that it wasn’t as grand as you always thought. Even if it’s not being completely ripped apart, they are taking at least some part of it and showing you that you need a reality check of sorts.
This causes so much inner turmoil, as I can attest to first hand. Who do you side with, the memory or the person who has helped you so much. It goes far beyond a tug-0-war, like I said it can feel like a war zone and you’re doing one of those, “which way do I go, which way to I turn” type of dances while trying to avoid the barrage.
You look to one side and then the other, back and forth in your head. Who do you help, who do you agree with, who’s going to help you as you stand in the middle trying to figure this out?
If you’re like me, you tend to be a very extreme thinker, very black and white. Even though there is always a gray area, you don’t prefer to hang out there. Even though deep healing happens in the scary middle; well that’s just not at the forefront of your mind at the moment.
So, what do you do, what’s the answer?
There is no cookie cutter response or quick fix but there are couple things we can cling too while working through this tough time.
- No matter what, show that memory that you still love it, hold it close, and validate it for everything awesome that it’s always been. Think of it as part of your inner child (one of your inner children), who’s crying out to be validated.
- As difficult as it is, keep an open mind to the fact that not everything is 100% perfect, 100% of the time. Even the memory that we hold so dear, could in part, need to be re-evaluated. It doesn’t mean that the whole memory is shot to hell, but it does mean that as we grow we learn to see things from a different perspective, and with more clarity.
- Take your time. It may sound cliche, but sitting with every feeling and giving it the attention it deserves in it’s own time, goes a long way. You can’t rush through healing, and you sure don’t want to rush through re-examining sacred memories. The repercussions of just “pushing on through” so to speak, can linger and cause more grief down the road.
This is where working with a professional is so important, there’s no way you want to go through something as traumatic as this, alone. You need someone who will let you sit with your feelings and help explain how you can best move forward and keep that important part of your past relevant and positive.
This is not easy, it’s very difficult actually, so I have to remind myself, and perhaps you can use a small reminder as well, to be kind to yourself during these tough times. You will make it through, and these trying times can lead to exponential healing and light-bulb moments that will stick with us as turning points in our recovery from abuse.
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