Keep Therapy Weird
Years ago the Austin Independent Business Alliance adopted the phrase Keep Austin Weird to promote small businesses in Austin. Since it’s inception, Austinites have embraced this concept celebrating our weirdness and what sets us apart from our Dallas, San Antonio and Houston neighbors.
Keep Austin Weird has evolved and expanded. It’s meaning has spread across town as we claim our Weirdness and Austin-ness all around us. For library goers it’s Keep Austin Reading, for cyclists – Keep Austin Biking, and for naturalists – Keep Austin Beautiful.
This list does not end. If there is a cause, enter it into the formula. Keep Austin – Local, Batty, Bearded and even – Keep Austin Austin.
With the intention of inclusivity to causes, let’s not forget about therapy. Although therapy is often seen as a traditional means to improve one’s quality of life – at times, therapy tends to be an awesomely strange and weird experience.
Let’s start with the early days of Freudian analysis. You lay on a couch while the therapist sits behind you, writing down everything you say while puffing on a pipe. The therapist barely speaks other than to say, “tell me more about that” to conclude that you suffer from womb envy, hysteria or may even explain how your wife shares similar characteristics with your mother. Weird!
Although Freud made a considerable impact on our current understanding of psychology, many of his theories seem outdated and old-fashioned. In 2014 visiting a therapist looks very different. It is often a collaborative, strength-based and brief process that balances the expertise of the therapist and the client. It supports the development of personal insight and awareness. That isn’t to say that we have eliminated all the weird moments.
To the contrary, the weirdness of therapy has just shifted. Here are a couple of examples how.
The first comes from our understanding of family systems theory. It tells us that the individual cannot be understood in isolation but rather part of a larger family system with interconnected and interdependent parts. What this means is that the more people we include in your sessions, the better the outcome.
This process is not always easy. As well as you understand your family, seldom do you gather with the intention of gaining emotional closeness and solving problems. This may be a vulnerable process and one that is new to you.
How often at the dinner table does someone say,
“Can you say that differently? It sounds like you were trying to tell your mom that you were scared and that’s why you fought going to school. Can you say more about what it’s like to face a bully?”
Family therapy is finding your truth and sharing it with others to meet your physical, mental and spiritual needs. No matter how weird or awesome the session may seem, it will always be the goal of the therapist to find your strengths and intentions so you can share them with the ones you love.
Second on the list of Keep Therapy Weird is our understanding of the mind-body connection. This topic has been around for centuries and has been the epicenter of philosophical discussion from Aristotle to Descartes. However, let’s skip the debate and take a simple look at neuroscience.
Everything we experience in life travels through our brain and stores itself as a memory. When a person experiences something difficult, stressful or traumatic it may negatively impact our sense of safety, self-esteem and confidence. When these difficult memories get stuck in our system it tends to drive our behaviors. In this case, when we are triggered or reminded of the difficult past we often react in ways that are not helpful. We tend to follow an inner voice that says, “I am not good enough” and “It was all my fault”. As a result, we tend to practice negative coping strategies such as avoidance, disengagement and denial. At times, the over consumption of drugs, alcohol, TV, and overeating temporarily ease our pain.
Here you most likely will encounter a therapist who goes beyond the traditional question, ”how does that feel?” to include, “and where do you feel that in your body?” Weird, right?
In an effort to realign the mind and body, mindfulness has found its way into therapy. Mindfulness has proven highly effective to assist the client to gain a deeper understanding of self and begin the healing process as you recover from stressful life experiences. To be therapeutically mindful is the process of building awareness, feeling grounded and slowing down time and breath. To develop a basic level of mindfulness may even help decrease daily stress levels.
Next time you are in therapy and are prompted to feel the ground under your feet or to create a top 10 list of your silliest coping strategies, remember that therapy may be a weird and beautiful experience. Enjoy every moment, every breath – and remember… Keep Therapy Weird!