I always discover that a therapy lesson or skill has stuck during a seemingly random and spontaneous moment. The transitions in therapy are slow, painfully slow, and there is often no big ‘aha’ moment when things switch or a habit sticks or a thought pattern forms. But there is often an ‘aha’ moment when I realize something has switched, and I am different.
My first memory of a therapy ‘aha’ was with Em as my counselor. I was riding the bus to school and realized that for the first time, the endless self-deprecating chatter that had been going on in my head had ceased. For months we had been talking about making room for and encouraging the critical voice and I had rolled my eyes every time but participated and it finally worked. I remember being so happy and thinking on that bus ride about it and realizing I couldn’t remember the last time I had had that endless chatter. I remember exactly where I was standing, riding down that hill on a crowded bus, smiling like an idiot because I had finally stopped hating on myself constantly.
That was an internal aha. I still have those although not as often, because I generally either have the inside situation under control with a really good understanding of my motivations and what makes me tick, or because I avoid certain topics.
But I still have external ‘aha’ moments. I imagine there may be a day where I realize I’ve become more patient, for example (as if!). And these moments almost exclusively happen first with my husband. I mean, he is my better half, now that we are married I’m no longer paranoid that he is leaving me at every turn (which is somewhat hilarious because every time we’ve separated in the last decade has been me pushing him away and leaving even though I had done things like throw laptops and lie incessantly, but I digress), and he will tell me like it is. Plus I spend the majority of my time with him. So it’s only natural I’m trying out all these therapy lessons on my closest relationships before moving outwards and (eventually, hopefully) applying them to my family.
So, today, he woke up grumpy. And he was grumpy and cranky all day. And at some point in the grocery store when he was being super surly I told him “you’re grumpy, I understand why. You haven’t been feeling well. It’s okay that you’re grumpy.” And we kept shopping. And I’m pushing the cart (cause the crowd frustrates him) and I realize to myself that I haven’t internalized his grumpy all day. Not once.
And I realize this there in the parking lot in the rain and I just stop moving, mouth agape, and he’s like “you okay?” Probably thinking ‘WTF is she doing it’s wet and I’m grumpy’, and I respond “yea, I’m good, let’s go”. In that moment I was marvelling at the fact that my husband has been grumpy all day and not once did I think it was my fault.
One of the things I’ve been trying to learn is I’m not responsible for the feelings of others and how they feel is not something I need to fix. And I may not execute it perfectly, always, but something in me today (maybe those affirmations I’m repeating every morning and night no matter how reluctant I feel are part of this) felt strong enough to be like “this isn’t us. This isn’t about us.” And to not apologize and give him space and not ask constantly for reassurance.
And man, what a really refreshing sign that things are still going well and I’m still growing. I didn’t automatically assume something was my fault, and that’s huge for me.
When was your last therapy ‘aha’? Congratulate yourself on your growth and remind yourself that just because you can’t always see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. It may surprise you on a bus or in a rainy parking lot sometime soon.