Imagine attending to a gash on your leg with a plaster, it keeps it covered and it may well do the job for a while. Then it starts to itch, becoming more noticeable and eventually starts to get in the way of daily activity. You take the plaster off and realise it needs a bit more than a plaster; a deeper clean, removing the bits that had become stuck. It may become too painful to do it alone or you may not have the right tools so you go and get it looked at.
This is what therapy is and the wounds are emotional. They may be deep and need someone skilled to help clear and heal the gash(es). The dressings are removed carefully, all with your permission and although you know it needs to happen, it hurts. It hurts so much and yet you know it’s good because it will bring healing.
This is the real work of therapy. It’s not pretty and you don’t leave every session skipping down the road. Sure there are moments of absolute beauty found in connection, feeling safe, feeling understood and finally sharing the burden. It’s also hard and frustrating work.
Therapy is meant to make you feel better, right? So why do I often feel worse? you might ask. Let me tell you, the frustration and exhaustion often experienced can be sign that therapy is going well! When clients are in the thick of uncovering the wounds and beginning the healing process they often report feeling exhausted, tearful and wondering what they’ve started. I respond with validation of their feelings, because it is hard work and I also affirm that as counterintuitive as it feels, I see it as a positive sign of therapy being utilised and engaged in. Running a race isn’t easy and to come out where you want to be is going to need time spent training, it’s a sweaty business! Therapy comes with emotional sweat to get you to where you want to be.
Much like the gash needing a deeper clean, the process is longer than applying a quick plaster but the benefits to doing such deep work are long term. So if it feels hard work, it’s because it is hard work and you are doing a beautiful and brave thing. Eventually the wound(s) start to heal, moving becomes easier, the sting goes down and life feels that bit easier. Don’t be alarmed if during this process you have some wavering moments of doubt and pain as when a physical wound is healing it itches and the skin works to form a scab and then a scar. Sometimes that scab might bleed and the scar might feel tight but behind it all healing and health is happening, much like therapy.
Keep going. It hurts, but it hurts good.