Friday, June 18, 2010

Staying Present

I ended my therapy with Stephen - both a time for celebration and grief. Trusting my gut, I feel finished for now. Not having written a lot during this year of working with him, I thought it would be good to jot down a few of the important things I learned. Some of these are "staying present", "it is all about relationship", "living life to it fullest honors God," "calling on mercy" and "leaving it behind".

Perhaps, the most impacting lesson was "staying present". Focusing on the actual moment I am living reduces my stress when anxiety hits. Staying present also allows me to avoid mental journeys to places I do not want to go. At first this was a very difficult idea to practice. My mind chose to do anything but to stay in the immediate.

Growing up, I used my imagination to meet many of my emotional needs. I continued to do so in my adult life, if not to the same extent. These journeys into the worlds I created became an escape from the present and a place that soothed me inside. They always involved authority figures and my interactions with them. Many times it involved sexual dynamics of acceptance and desire. These journeys became an addiction.

With abuse came another expression of this addiction. A longing seemed to explode up and out of me whenever I related to anyone in an authority position. This longing for attention.......approval........acceptance......recognition ruled my internal life. The hunger was intense. It was tormenting. I feared I would do something, anything to satiate my hunger.

In my early years of therapy, the addiction to this authority approval, governed my thoughts 90% of my free time. Since I was back in college, studying took over a hunk of my thoughts and was my one place of relief. No wonder I made A's. The rest of my mental energy involved relating to my therapist, Cheryl. I was enamored with her. I fell in love with her. I thought constantly about her. I was the child in love with the mother. Years passed and with therapy the addiction decreased. I grew up - more slowly than I wished - and little by little thoughts tended to stick less on authority figures. But, it wasn't gone.

Stephen called it an addiction. I had called it that with previous therapists but no one else had. Stephen named it but didn't judge it. It was a fact and we talked about it as such - always with God's grace and love surrounding it. Naming it was the first step towards freedom.

Staying present fights the addiction when it begins to rumble inside. Having found that safe place inside of me, focusing on the present and "going home" to that safe place breaks the urge to run to imaginings. When I feel drawn to authority and my thoughts long to go there, I focus on the present - what I have, who I am, where I am, what I am doing.

Learning to stay present was the first strategy Stephen offered me. Interestingly, staying present is not something he was taught, but something he stumbled on in his own struggles in life. A pearl he learned and offered me. A pearl that has helped set me free.