6 Signs You Are Sabotaging Your Own Growth In Therapy
Spotting the red flags of our self-sabotaging behaviour, and nipping them in the bud.
The relationship between therapist and client is unprecedented; and will never again be replicated in one’s life. It is unique for myriad reasons, not least because of the neutral stance in which the therapist positions himself. This dynamic, where one party remains entirely impartial, never occurs in regular relationships.
The therapist’s neutral orientation allows for vulnerability to assume itself in the client. This itself is unique — we do not walk around our every day lives in a psychological space of vulnerability — we would be annihilated by life and its inhabitants. The client’s vulnerability gives rise to what therapist’s often term as ‘grist for the mill’ i.e. fodder for the therapeutic process to grind itself through.
This fluid process is what enables spiritual expansion and growth to take place. But sometimes, the process is not so fluid.
Therapy can go wrong for all sorts of reasons. In fact, therapeutic ruptures are intrinsic to the therapeutic locale — that blips arise, fractures occur, misunderstandings happen; this is inevitable, and often offers up great opportunity for client growth and evolution.
Sometimes the chemistry just isn’t there. For whatever reason the meeting of minds is not a meeting but rather a clash — of personalities, feelings, emotions, etc.
But therapy can also go awry when we sabotage it through our own misguided endeavours, thinking and feelings. The trick is to be mindful of the red flags in ourselves; having an ability to notice when we are interfering with the process because of our own thoughts or perceptions.
When we are aware then we can adjust, adapt and reconfigure our viewpoint and understanding. In doing so, we grow in the process.
The Red Flags of Self Sabotaging Behaviours in Therapy
You omit the truth, or omit important details from the past
A therapist is much like an MI5 agent from the day he sets eyes on us. He is unpacking our present, and past to build a timeline and picture of what was, and now is. Joining the dots as it were. And this takes time and a great deal of investigative interrogation on the therapist’s part. He needs to do this in order to make an accurate assessment of how best to serve and assist. And also, to understand us in totality — understand us for all the events and experiences that our lives have offered up to date.
When therapists have the wrong information, or missing information it is very hard for them to provision attuned support or interventions that are most appropriate to our needs at any given moment.
How to fix it — there’s no rush to open Pandora’s Box fully, but when the time presents itself, and we feel comfortable with our therapist — then the full backstory must present itself. If you feel uncomfortable then just airing this fact in itself is a great starting point to open the conversation.
You don’t express discontentment when something goes awry with the therapist
As somebody who dislikes confrontation intensely, I find it hard to speak up when somebody has upset me, or when I feel misunderstood. But no more is this crucial than in the therapeutic space. Therapy can go catastrophically off-piste when a rupture occurs that is not dealt with by either party. It can terminate an otherwise great relationship, foreshortening what could be an immensely rewarding and healing journey.
A therapist is entirely, 100% yours. He wishes only the best for you and in this sense, telling him about our discontent on something he said or did, or because we feel misunderstood will only be met with understanding and appreciation of the honest truth. It can then be dealt with — the rupture can be healed, and very often a deepening of the relationship manifests.
More than this, it is a pivotal opportunity for us to flex our assertive muscles about our feelings. This is a chance to grow, we must take it by the horns, and bloom.
How to fix it — introspectively, we must analyse whether this is a pattern in our broader personal lives. Do we continually harbour bad or negative feelings, or closet upsets that we would rather express? If this is the case then now is the time to change that. But if it isn’t then perhaps this is a sign that all is not well in the therapeutic space — maybe we aren’t feeling the right chemistry with our therapist and if this is what is happening then this also ought to be aired.
You use therapy as an airing cupboard
Therapy is not walking into a room and having a good old rant about life with our best pal. It is a space in which we sit vulnerably, opening our hearts and minds to heal with an attuned other who will guide us towards our own truth.
When we sit and unfurl venting bullets into the space in front of us we are merely magnifying the negativity that lurks underneath.
More than that, it is a deflection of what sits deeper within us. When we vent we are addressing only what sits at a superficial, surface level. Therapy is about digging deep, and unpacking all the layers of the past, and bringing them into the present, so that we can tackle the issues that lie at the root of our current repeated strife.
How to fix it — we must always remain mindful of why we started therapy in the first place. This will draw us more inward to our deeper feelings and experiences. When we draw on this space we are tackling the root of the problems that are recurrent in our today. It’s good to keep revisiting these objectives with our therapist so we ensure we stay on track of where we wanted to go when we started the therapy journey.
You omit the bits that make you look bad
A pointless exercise. A therapist is well trained in picking up on what is said, and also what is not said. We aren’t going to therapy to be loved and adored. We are going to therapy for discovery, healing and for growth. This cannot occur without honesty and transparency on the part of the client. A therapist will not be able to provide the attunement and care that is needed without the complete picture.
The beauty of therapy is that the therapist is impartial; he does not judge. He is merely concerned with guiding us to make crucial inferences on why we do what we do and grow in doing so.
How to fix it — it may seem scary to be totally vulnerable and honest with your therapist about how you feel about yourself. Try with something fairly innocuous, a recent event where you have felt disappointed or upset with somebody — just share the experience, and then discover that the honesty is actually liberating. Being honest about how you felt, how you dealt with the matter will allow the dynamic of therapist and client to illicit some important insights.
You get stuck in debating with your therapist
Therapy is emotionally challenging no doubt. The job of the therapist is to guide us towards ourselves; to identify patterns of behaviour, ways of thinking that cause us pain, so that we can grow and evolve spiritually. The truth can be painful, and we may respond with defensiveness or anger. But getting into frequent debates with our therapist is going to impede our growth and spiritual evolution. We cannot tackle raw, deeper issues if we are fending off perceived threat all the time.
How to fix it — take a moment to observe the discomfort you are feeling and try and analyse why this is arising. When we mindfully observe our thoughts and emotions, we can derive some great insights about our true selves — what lies beneath the superficial layer of the self we project into the Universe without thinking. There’s a lot going on under that surface and when we take a moment to listen, we can respond to others with more self-awareness, understanding and patience.
You use therapy to fill your inner emptiness
The relationship between therapist and client is in a class by itself. There is no other relationship quite like it but it is not to be confused with friendship, or love, or any other form of interpersonal liaison. Sometimes, loneliness, isolation or whatever, can cause us to blur the lines of familiarity when it comes to the therapeutic entanglement. We want to feel a connection to the therapist to ease our suffering, feel a softening in our hearts.
But our therapists are not gifted to planet earth to ease our pain, or heal our inner emptiness. Rather, we use therapy to learn ourselves, how to fill the void — how to restore, repair, and self-care. It would be contradictory to the whole process if we became reliant on the therapist to fix all our psychic ailments. The whole idea is that we use the therapeutic space to foster greater autonomy, more personal fulfillment, and stronger self-dependence.
How to fix it — outside of the therapy hour, in day to day life we must be working hard at self-care; finding ways to enrich our lives and fulfill our true needs with kindness and self-acceptance. If we are struggling with this, the void will remain, and this is important ‘grist for the mill’. We can talk the emptiness through with our therapist, but we must not rely on him to fill the void.
Therapy is a rare, but profound opportunity to learn more about ourselves in the presence of another who does not judge or mar. Therapists have only good intentions for our emotional and psychological well-being, there is no threat in this relationship. No threat of rejection, or harm, or betrayal — so this is our chance to be vulnerable. To open up our own personal Pandora’s Box and let our truth air itself, so that we can be guided towards psychic enlightenment and spiritual growth. It is a travesty when we let our own misguided emotions and behaviours get in the way of this truly special and unique opportunity for inner maturation and evolvement, so we must remain vigilant and keep our eyes open for when we stray off piste.