The Time Traveling Onion: Some Thoughts on Therapy

Posted: October 24, 2013 by writingsprint in My two cents
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A friend of mine once said that therapy was like peeling back an onion: you do it layer by layer. I remember not liking it. Peeling anything reminded me of peeling skin, which made me think of pain. I wanted to avoid that.

Some people would say it’s unavoidable. I certainly pushed myself over some awful emotional bridges in my day. The best advice I ever got from my therapist was not to tackle anything I wasn’t ready for. Sure, I could rattle off every problem I was wrestling with, plus all the ones I wasn’t dealing with at the time but that I knew were out there. I could also build a house with my own bare hands, right here, right now, if I had all the supplies in front of me and enough time to do it. I wouldn’t want to live in that house. Just because I could didn’t mean I was ready to.

I trusted her, so I started dealing with one thin layer at a time. Some problems would come back around. That’s normal. As opposed to driving myself to be perfect, now, I accepted myself and worked on growing in a direction I wanted to. I also accepted that these things, like most averages, are made up of ups and downs. Years later, I have to admit the onion metaphor’s a pretty good one. You start where you are, working on your life on the outside.

The strangest thing lately has been the time traveling. Choices become actions, become habits, become our lives. As I started to undo old bad habits and create new ones, I would remember bad habits that I picked up from longer and longer ago. Not just the habit, but when it happened and the choice that I made. Last week I had to concentrate on something to get work done. I originally learned to concentrate by kicking myself in the ass at age six. The moment that it happened, the very first time, blinked into my head. I could remember how the room looked, how I felt – a lot smaller – and it was like being able to make a different choice. Instead of focusing through anger and frustration, I breathed, focused, and flexed the concentration muscles because I wanted to. It’s a subtle difference.

If I’ve peeled back the layers to age six, what happens next? Soon I’ll be going so far back that I don’t remember why I started doing what I did, only that I want to change it now. What happens after that? Past lives? Some of my friends would say yes. All I know is that we live our lives moving forward, with the occasional time jump. I’ve undone a lot of bad habits. There are good new ones to build.

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