"It has been said across this field of psychology, that our defenses are just no good; that they are what we use when we are afraid, stale, stuck, or even worse—
So the therapeutic venture, in days past, has been one of deconstruction, or a kind of sand-blasting, if you will, of this psychic armament. It has typically been one-person challenging the walls, pushing up against the doors, calling the bright, fluorescent spotlight to which of the many, many bunkers the other may be constantly retreating to to hide.
For some, this way of doing therapy has been helpful.
For me, not so much.
Even as I pen the above sentences, I hear the tone of violence (sand-blasting, challenging, pushing-up against) in this way of venturing into the complexities of the human mind. I can already feel the shame of my nakedness and the anxiety of my loss when my defenses are shotgunned to the floor like that.
From my experience, with myself and with patients, I have come to see the use of such defenses with a kind of of course mentality.
Of course you (are in) withdrawal.
Of course you are filled with secret rage that you are terrified to surface.
Of course you don’t want to feel these overwhelming feelings of shame, humiliation, grief.
The aim of therapeutic venture, with me, is to understand; is understanding.
The phrase of course is but a symbol to a deeper set of beliefs that our defenses are set into place for good reasons. They are deployed against the other, against inner and outer pain, and even against our own selves, for good reasons. It is my deep belief that our defenses have helped us to survive.
To survive, yes, even ourselves.
However, the next sentence is often— but that was then. They helped us survive, didn’t they? But that was then.
Of course &but that was then.
Where we get stuck in our lives—where we feel trapped, where we have this gnawing feeling in our chest, in our gut, in our bones to the point where we can’t sleep, where we feel the pain of having to face the day, of having to get out of bed, where we feel so lost and disoriented and alone we could scream, when we simultaneously want the other closer, yet we push them away— is when our defenses are no longer serving their original purposes. They are actually disruptive; they are actually causing more pain.
However, to lose such protection that we have come to rely upon for all these years—that has literally saved our lives—can create a lot of anxiety and pain, can’t it?
It is such a bind and such a feeling of ambivalence— to want to change and live and relate in different ways; but to also want to stay the same, to feel the familiar, to cherish the kind of feeling of home that creates. Because, as one of my favorite authors says, even if home was abusive and dysfunctional and absolutely nuts, it’s better than no home, right? Can we actually create some thing better? Can we actually live a life more healthy and open and one filled with beauty and truth and love? Can we actually build and sustain and maintain a new kind of home for ourselves?
Absolutely we can,and it will cost us our very lives.
It will cost us the surrender and the letting go and the understanding of the complexity of our hearts and our defenses and our minds and our lives. It will cost us the using of our pain, the giving meaning to our pain, in order to create a better way of being in the world.
In order to create a better way.
It will cost us the tremendous courage and kindness and radical self-care that is necessary when looking our humanity honestly, fully, in the face. It will cost us our tears of how our life, our story, has come to be. It will cost tremendous patience and understanding, love. Ongoing.
Of course it has.
Of course it is.
Of course it will be. "