A Little Bit of Therapy

None of this is real. But it could be. It could be real if I actually said out loud the things I think in my head when I’m at the therapist’s office.

Therapist: I think you would benefit from trauma-informed yoga.

Me: I hate yoga.

Therapist: Tell me more about that.

Me: I mean, I like yoga clothes. Specifically, the pants. I like yoga pants. I’m going to ride that wave well past its peak. I found some with pockets on both sides and that’s sort of the same as winning the lottery, right? Deep pockets, that my phone fits all the way into without peeking out at all so it doesn’t fall out. I bought two pairs because I was so excited. Black, of course, because black yoga pants are, like, almost formal wear. Also, burgundy. I like the black ones better, but burgundy goes with all the black t-shirts I own. So, yoga pants…

Therapist: Yoga pants are comfy. Tell me more about the parts of yoga you don’t like.

Me: I don’t like trying to put my body into awkward positions that I never get right while I mostly just worry that I’m going to fart.

Therapist: Yoga isn’t about getting it right. It’s about connection with your body.

Me: I like the disconnection, thank you very much.

Therapist: Disconnection is your defense. It’s the wall you’ve built to protect the child inside who was hurt. Connecting again with your body will help heal the child.

Me: She likes the wall. The child is a big fan of the wall. Also, yoga=farting=lifetime humiliation.

Therapist: EMDR might be another way for you to connect while allowing you to be free from…some of your other concerns.

Me: Does it involve Down Dog?

Therapist: Not at all. You sit on the couch in a comfortable position. You’ll wear headphones and hold some paddles.

Me: Like rowing paddles? Weird.

Therapist: (slight laugh) Ha ha. No, small paddles that will send electric impulses first to the left then to the right.

Me: Shock therapy? Oh, no. My mom did electroconvulsive therapy and I don’t think we need to go there yet.

Therapist: No, nothing like ECT. It’s a gentle pulse.

Therapist (takes my hands in hers): Like this (gently presses my left hand, then right hand).

Me: That’s nice. I like that. Do I have to talk?

Therapist: You only have to let me know occasionally that you aren’t in too deep, that you’re still able to hear me.

Me: I don’t have to tell you what I’m thinking or feeling?

Therapist: Not if you don’t want to. 

Me: Hot Dog! Let’s do this thing. 

4 sessions later…

Me: That was cute. I really enjoyed touching all that pain and trauma. Now, I’m going to cancel all future sessions and pretend neither one of us knows about this hellscape inside my head.

Therapist: What about yoga?

Me: 

Therapist:

Gentle reader, I am not doing yoga, no matter how much my therapist loves to badger me about it. I have friends who have found connection, healing, and answers through a series of yoga poses, but I am not one of them. 

I have other friends who have found the same connection and release through emotional support animals, art therapy, energy healing, meditation, reflexology, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, medication, cognitive behavior modification, exposure therapy, and talk-therapy. Talk therapy never did much for me, but EMDR helped my body release trauma it held at the not-quite-conscious level so that I could safely work through some of the vast amounts of childhood pain I carry with me. I will probably do it again when the world stops whirling from Covid and I feel anchored enough to work on another leg of the tentacled mess that is my brain. I also find solace and answers in long hikes, sometimes with prayer, sometimes with angry yelling at God, and sometimes in companionable silence with that same God. Often, those happen during the same hike, fluctuating like the landscape.

 I have a dear friend who found herself at an ashram in silent communion over long weeks. 

I’ve found peace through blessings by men who hold the Priesthood. I’ve found peace and exhilaration through blessings by women who act in accordance with the light and knowledge God has given them. I’ve placed my hands on my children and called on God to protect, heal, guide them, and I’ve felt joy in doing so. I’ve taken those children to doctors who look in their eyes, ears, noses and throats. And I take them to a therapist who talks with them about their experiences and their fears.

Another friend attends self-help conferences and works on vision boards and projection. She practices behavior modification techniques while creating beauty in herself and the world.

I went to a youth activity to protect kids from hate speech, and the Native leaders saged the area before and during the event. I appreciate every effort to protect children from evil, whether it’s part of my cultural heritage or not.

Friends have found a connection with deity through dance and song, which I envy. Maybe my body will move in dance as soon as it learns Down Dog.

Others release generational pain through sweat lodges. Western science hasn’t proven it, and it isn’t my culture, but dismissing it because of that seems insensitive at best and racist at worst.

Why would we take any of those things away from people? This world is hard. Beautiful, and awesome, and heartbreakingly magnificent, but also incredibly damaging to our souls. Every day, little things break us down and tear us to pieces. Any tool that helps us keep it all together, that creates peace inside so we can share ourselves with others, well, that seems to me to be a worthy practice, and divinely appointed. 

I think God has myriad ways to reach us. I think any God who can create the platypus and radiation and snow and vampire squid is not limited in creativity, and saying, “Only authorized Western knowledge is acceptable,” is detrimental to us as individuals and to the world as we navigate it. I do less damage when I walk through the world with less pain, less fear, less anger.

Are there charlatans? Of course. But the same can be said for those who have medical degrees or operate within the confines of LDS Priesthood authority. How many people have been sexually abused at their doctor’s office? Or had their symptoms ignored or ridiculed because they were women or trans or Black or Indigenous or Latiné? And I don’t want to go into all the sexual abuse involving Bishops, Stake Presidents, MTC Presidents, etc, or the manipulation of women and children by men who hear confessions and provide counsel in areas where they have no formal training and in which they may be influenced by their own biases, experiences, or hunger. Hunger makes people say bad things. Would you take marriage advice from a hungry man with no training who just had a fight with his wife? And yet, some of us are conditioned to think that’s more valid than, say, yoga. Or EMDR. Or energy work. Are there charlatans? Of course. Everywhere. Does it mean we should throw the whole system away? Eh, I’m a no on that. Mainly because, yoga aside, I need my therapist and EMDR, and other people need those other ways of healing. After all, my own past would have been better if the adults around me had found some way of touching trauma that didn’t involve sharing it with me. 

Hiking can be a way of connecting and I dare them to try to take that away from me.

 

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6 Responses

  1. Betsy Collins Shafer says:

    Pretty good . . . think i’ll go pet my dog (still asleep on my bed) – she might be down . . . and petting her might be therapeutic for me . . . .

  2. EmilyCC says:

    Yes, yes, yes. As I failed medication after medication for my depression, I learned that we have so many ways of connecting to our bodies or/and God, the Divine, whatever. I am grateful and amazed as I see practices that bring us all comfort. I feel bad when I laughed off psychics or rootwork or tarot; when in the hands of a wise practitioner, they have brought me peace and relief.

  3. Spunky says:

    Beautiful, thank you.

  4. Em says:

    This Is beautifully written. And I agree- unilaterally condemning something is problematic. Warning against charlatans is important – Mormons can be really gullible. But anything that helps us cope is a good thing

  5. Ziff says:

    I particularly love this paragraph:

    “Why would we take any of those things away from people? This world is hard. Beautiful, and awesome, and heartbreakingly magnificent, but also incredibly damaging to our souls. Every day, little things break us down and tear us to pieces. Any tool that helps us keep it all together, that creates peace inside so we can share ourselves with others, well, that seems to me to be a worthy practice, and divinely appointed.”

    Every day, little things break us down and tear us to pieces. I think this is so crushingly awfully true. Thanks for this post!

  6. liz johnson says:

    This is really beautiful. I had never really considered therapy and EDMR as ways that God could touch us, or heal us, and I really love this framing. Anything that “helps us keep it all together” and heal those things that tear us down, there’s God in that.

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