07 May Breaking Free
My work as a psychotherapist is often helping people to break free. It’s a tagline on my business card (helping people connect and break free…). Personal and relational liberation. Liberation is very much a central tenet of existential/humanistic psychology and psychotherapy.
Sometimes I wonder if my desire to help people break free has more to do with my own desire to break free. For some clients I secretly want them to just leave their dysfunctional relationship instead of work through it. How long do we endure things and work through them anyway? When is it more problematic or personally ignorant to stay in something unhelpful?
I’ve never felt fully at home as a therapist. I care about my clients. I care about therapy. It helped me tremendously. But as a career I’ve always questioned it. If you know me well you will know this truth.
Recently I’ve been coming closer and closer to accepting and championing the more artistic or creative side of myself. Not that this dichotomy has to exist, but for me, therapy doesn’t fit in that part of me. Or maybe it doesn’t fit in me. I’m not bad at it, but it is not want I want to do. I want to be able to just say that and be done with it but then I don’t know what else to do with my life so I crawl back to what I know.
Continuing to be a therapist makes me feel as though I may be reliving my childhood. I felt trapped in my childhood in having to help take care of and raise my adopted siblings. I couldn’t just live and be myself. When I was going through therapy I wrote in my journal a realization that I had died at the age of 5 (when my siblings were adopted). I no longer felt freedom to be.
After I went through therapy myself I considered going into counseling but decided against it. I wanted to do something more for me; something more about me; something more creative and free and open. It would be another 10 years before I completed a masters degree to allow me to practice psychotherapy. In the time in between my therapy and becoming a therapist I had no idea what to do with my life. I worked as a landscaper and eventually went back to school to do what I knew quite well — therapy.
My current wonderment is focused on what feels like a reliving. I feel as though my work with other human beings in the capacity of therapist is entrapping me again in the lives of another suffering person. That I all I have to offer is help. I can’t be myself and do something I love, and express something in me that feels so loud, so passionate. I must help. I must take care of others the way I did my siblings. I’ve always hated feeling like I help people. The word ‘help’ has always tripped me up. Now, I can easily get on the side of analyzing this away and work through those feelings because therapy isn’t about helping people in a codependent way but allowing them to do the work in your presence; and this might free me up a bit. But I still feel like I’m dying here – like a part of me is being silenced and ignored. It’s hard to explain, because I don’t hate my work. I care deeply about my clients and feel honored that they would entrust their lives to me. I don’t see all of this as black and white. I might do some sort of therapy for the rest of my life (although I didn’t like typing that sentence) but it won’t be central.
I’m a creative problem solver. Therapy can be seen as problem solving but that is some sort of by-product if it is done well, it isn’t really the purpose of the endeavor for me to solve the problems. I want to though. I want to be creative and utilize where my brain goes in thinking outside the box to solve problems. I also want to do something artistic and full of expression – expressing not only myself but what it means to live life as a human being.
I feel as though I might be onto something profound in helping me to break free. I’m scared though. I’m scared that I’m just looking for an answer to who I am that feels good. I’m scared that this will just pass next season. I’m scared I am looking for something that doesn’t exist. I’m scared I am just trying to fill the void of existence. I’m scared that I live in some sort of dream world and I’ll never know how to live this life as an adult. I’m scared it makes no sense that I’ve done all this work to become a therapist to only realize I don’t want to be one.
But I’m also excited. And I feel more trusting in this part of me wanting attention than ever before. It brings a mixture of angry protection and tearful connection. When I look at my life and career there are quite a few things pointing in this direction. I have been feeling more free the past week since this has all really started mobilizing. I think my Focusing training has had some sort of influence. It has allowed me to reconnect to myself in an all accepting way that I think has brought me back into connection with a deeper me. Other things have contributed as well over time. And other things seem to be saying I don’t really want to be doing what I’m doing, like the fact that I put hardly any effort into building my practice.
I want to break free. I’ve used that term before and as I said, it is on my business card. But this morning when my wife sent me a picture of this baby chick’s foot breaking out of its shell I heard the words “breaking free” in my head and that sense connected with a greater gestalt of my own current breaking free. My biggest fear is that this will just be another thing I do not finish and in a couple months I’ll be writing some stupid blog post about how I realized something else, like I really want to be a therapist again. But in the end, I’m okay with that risk. It will just show that I am human. I will laugh about it. I can only bring humor to being such a fool. Thinking of it now though feels depressing and meaningless, and if the hardcore existentialists are right, then life is empty and meaningless. I hope they are wrong. I need to believe there is a deeper part of me, a soul, guiding me and speaking about its greater needs and desires. I feel the need to break free like this little chick. And if I am, if I do, I also feel about as knowledgable about what will break free as this baby chick. I am at a beginning, a re-birth, and don’t know where I’m going.