Many years ago, an extended family member challenged my passion for therapy, saying that he had no interest in digging up stuff from the past and miring himself in it.
I understood. Therapy was heavy lifting. Men especially seemed afraid of the effort and fierce vulnerability required which is why I introduced my sons to therapy young so that they would have it as part of their toolkit–for health care and wellbeing–like yoga and dentistry, chiropractic and energy work, dance and art and nature, diet and bloodwork.
At the time, I offered the reluctant relative a car metaphor, explaining that therapy was how I kept my windshield clean–so that I could move forward–with a less obstructed view.
“Rather than weighing me down,” I said, “Dealing with the pain of the past frees up space for more joy in the present.”
He nodded, taking this in, but I suspect his past was too weighty and his present not light filled enough to warrant the risk, particularly if he was only considering the benefit to himself.
It’s tricky this living, nourishing both the present and the past, not to mention the future–our own and that of the next generations.
For women, the consideration of the next generation is embodied; they literally live inside us, affected by our minds, moods, emotions and consumption.
I first went to therapy in my mid-twenties after I became a parent for a sibling in crisis. Around the same time, I got involved in Al-Anon, wanting to offer the family I hoped to have, a lighter load than the one I’d received, which was doused in alcoholism, cruelty and neglect.
We all see the same therapist now, myself, my husband and our boys. It’s a bit awkward, today for instance, knowing that my son is (hopefully) talking about the grief I gave him last night and this morning to the woman who has been my most trusted ally since he was born.
Friends, especially couples, doubtful of this therapeutic relationship will ask, “But whose side is she on? Whose story does she believe?”
Alas, I’m not looking for a referee, or someone to point toward who is right and who is wrong, though I would like to amend the adage:
“Do you want to be right or in relationship?”
Because what I most desire for myself (and my loved ones) is to be in “right relationship” with self.
Rather than acting as judge, our therapist bears witness, creating more space between us, as we navigate our shared and individual paths.
When I feel particularly sensitive to the load my sons inherited from me, I sing the song other women passed along as I became a mother: