You Don't Need Me For That
Updated: Nov 14
There are many ways to get at the core of what troubles us as human beings, and none of us gets out trouble-free. Troubles explored in a therapeutic relational framework revolve around early life lessons, learned in part by a brain unready to evaluate helpfulness and applicability of these lessons. The brain likes to generalize and in so doing we can't help but carry primitive thinking into our adult lives. Sometimes this trips us up, sometimes impels us towards catastrophe in ways we simply don't understand. It contributes to apparently inescapable tangles with those we love, wondering why they hurt us so and/or why we hurt them. In a context which prizes empowerment and autonomy, all of this is explored for content, impact, and active decision making about what serves well and what might be better modified. Various ways to unearth messaging includes dedicated conversation, partly free association, partly digging through memories, partly picking apart contemporary events and feelings.
Within this framework eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) can also serve to make connections within past events sometimes leading to an altered perspective. It wasn't my fault, I don't have to be perfect, I didn't have control then, but I do now. I was vulnerable to circumstances beyond my control, but that is no longer the case. Often such realizations can contribute to a lessening of anxiety, increased feelings of self-acceptance, a reduced expectation for being hurt in relationship, separating true danger from imagined. The underlying mechanism of EMDR is poorly understood. There are a lot of theories, but all remain hypothetical. It is interesting to think about the neurological changes associated with unfavorable and sometimes abusive growing up environments and relationships, and the bilaterality of the brain. But this still does not yield scientific answers about eye movement, or alternate bilateral stimulation. Nonetheless, a wealth of data supports efficacy. Interwoven into a solid working relationship EMDR can sometimes contribute as a catalyst for change.
Sand tray work can also add to discovery. Bypassing verbal logic, some would say left brain understanding, and leaning more into implicit thought and feeling, what we know without being able to articulate, the configuration of an individual's tray can reveal underlying beliefs and expectations. Feeling small, the world feels chaotic, overwhelming, there are helpers and dangers, past and present. A future imagined, desire. Possibility, betrayal, love. Why wine or vodka or needles feel better than reaching out to others when feeling desolate. There is a quiet, reflective opportunity for reframing that can happen in the sand, new understanding, discovery of an inner, incompletely articulated world.
A reality is that intellectual insight isn't actually enough for durable change. Emotional insight and relational experiences are essential too, and that relates directly back to the therapeutic environment where interaction within the therapy relationship is greatly, in fact mostly, responsible for change. So, we protect that relationship and its unique features. You don't need me to make you better, stronger, faster. You don't need me to define your goals, bolster your inner voice, give you permission to care for yourself - take bubble baths, or vacation, or lighten your load - find a new job, break off your relationships, or stay. But I will ask you why you haven't and be curious about your self-feelings of loathing, love, and shame and begin to encourage you to ask those questions of yourself, too. I will be curious about your idea that you don't really deserve love, or that you have to be perfect in every way. I will notice when you fear being left behind, when you wonder why no one stays, or wonder why they do. When you accomplish something, I will ask you if you feel pride, and if you don't, we will wonder why together. You will discover your inroads, your territory, your rocky terrain, your desert and your lakes and oceans. And I will hope that you learn to wonder at them too, as long as it takes, until you actually do. That is really, why I am here with you.