A Raleigh Therapist's Blog

Thoughts on counseling, healing, and creating the life you want

Why Insight Alone isn’t Enough in Therapy or Life

celloI’ve been struggling lately with an unusual travel companion as I chug along the road of life–writer’s block. Most of the time, all I have to do is sit down at my computer and something will pop out of my fingertips. But, lately I’ve been following the muse into other art forms instead. Boy, I’m getting a lot of cello playing done. Nevertheless, this aimless intellectual wandering is a bit unsettling. Writing has always been my primary form of expression.

At times like this, I need to head out there and get some inspiration. For me, that usually means reading someone else’s fantastic writing (Thomas Lynch always does it) or accessing a bit of social interaction. Right now, I don’t want to do that, though. I just want to be frickin’ brilliant without effort. And that, dear readers, brings me to the point of today’s blog: thinking and insight are not enough to create substantial long-term change for you or (alas) for me. To really up the ante, you must combine the knowing with the doing.

There is a myth out there that if you understand your current situation, history and proclivities completely, that behavioral change will then be easy and natural. Folks begin to get frustrated in therapy when the insight doesn’t necessarily prompt massive changes. Don’t despair! One of the most important gifts that a deeper awareness can offer is giving yourself permission to change. But, once you have really gotten it in your head that making a few alterations will serve your best interests, you’re only a bit of the way there. I tell you this to reassure you that the behavioral efforts necessary to support intellectual and spiritual revelations are tough for everyone. If it felt natural to do those things, guess what? You would have done them already. A real longing for insight to be sufficient is common. And, it’s surmountable when you’re willing to honor the process.

If therapists have a magic wand to wave, it is assisting clients in getting clear about concerns that were  once murky. For instance, noting that you ape out and scream at your partners because that is what was done in your family of origin is a handy moment of clarity. Recognizing that you constantly choose friends who have poor boundaries and require you to have the same may illuminate the path to change. But, you still have to do the things that pinch a bit to really succeed at life or in therapy.  For instance, you must practice the breathing exercises we do when you become too rage-filled to participate nicely. You’ve got to stick to the meditation homework that helps us get your anxiety down a bit.

Have you hit a rough spot? Would you like a bit of help figuring out how to get back out there? Why don’t you come on in so we can talk about it.

Your Partner in Healing,

 

Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

Twitter: HollyCoxLMFT

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Infidelity, Marriage Therapy, and Healing Your Shared Story

Do you guys watch Boardwalk Empire? I’m a recent convert to this show, which I’m devouring voraciously while I wait for a few others I like to circle back around to having new seasons. Usually, I can’t watch things are too violent. I’ve just never had the stomach for it. But, I love this show so dearly, that much to my husband’s amusement, I’m just hiding behind my hand when I think anyone is going to meet a bad end.

The reason that I’m so fond of  Nucky Thompson et al. is because nearly all of the likable characters on the show are in some way villain protagonists. You know you’re not supposed to be cheering on folks who do kinda terrible things. But, since the story is told from their points of view, and you have enough context to understand the complexity of their actions, you root for them all anyway. For me, this is a lot like what I do as a therapist. Though many of the things my clients do are on the outside of it destructive, willfully awful, or just plain odd, I have the benefit of the entire story–not just what it looks like from afar. That is what enables me (and all therapists really) to remain helpful and nonjudgemental. I think for someone who has never really been priveleged to another person’s unadulterated point of view, this is difficult to imagine. But, it’s how we therapists cultivate compassion and help people who have done bad things do better things instead.

When an infidelity happens in your relationship, the black and white world of devotion and fidelity suddenly takes on many shades of gray. It’s a terrible thing for each partner because there is no unambiguous heroism to be found anymore. Both parties are left with questions not only about the spouse’s character but about their own. Here’s a close approximation of the kind of negative self-talk  I hear from partners dealing with emotional and/or physical affairs:

Unfaithful Partner: “Now I know what I’m capable of doing. This isn’t within my morality. I don’t know how I let myself get to this place, and I don’t know how my spouse can ever trust me again. I wouldn’t even trust me again. I don’t deserve to be loved anymore, I’m a terrible person.”

Betrayed Partner: “Great, I guess I’m one of those people who doesn’t even know my partner well enough to see that he /she is having a whole relationship outside of ours. Maybe I’m not as sensitive and intuitive as I thought I was. Also, what’s wrong with me that I am trying to work it out with someone who cheated on me? I said I would never put up with that. I must really be a sucker.”

The common thread is a deep sense of humiliation and despair about one’s own personal failings. Paired withs serious misgivings about your partner, this a potent cocktail for misery. Anyone who has read this blog before knows that I believe that the unfaithful partner must do double duty after the affair to take good care of the person who has been betrayed. Attempting to “move ahead” or “heal” the relationship too quickly and without the appropriate humility and attention to the suffering your spouse is experiencing is a quick route towards rendering that process much longer, more thorny and terrible for you both.  The work for the couple is in coming up with a new love story about themselves that encompasses both what the couple had before, and a new shared identity in the wake of the affair.

Therapy can help these negotiations because it is a safe place to tell what happened and decide what to do next. Even if you’re more antihero than hero these days, we can still change the plot. Why don’t you come on in so that we can talk about it?

Your Partner in Healing,

Holly

Are you looking for individual, couples or group therapy in Raleigh? Call me today to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to learn how counseling can help you. Please contact me at (919) 714-7455 or email me at holly@lotustherapycenter.com. Visit me on the web at www.lotustherapycenter.com or:

Twitter: HollyCoxLMFT

Pinterest:DrHollyCox

Facebook: Lotus Therapy Center

Google +: Holly Cox

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