I've sought out counseling maybe a handful of times in my life. Usually, it only lasts about three sessions, when I can tell that the therapist is so into the stories I'm telling, he (almost always a he) has nothing helpful to offer.
This time, I'm pleasantly surprised that throughout our 45-minute sessions, there are usually at least 2 moments of NEW insight or learning FROM the therapist, not just from stream of consciousness conversation. Totally great.
Last week, she recommended the work of Daniel Siegel, author of Mindsight, Parenting from the Inside Out, and the Mindful Therapist. He offers the "hand model" of the brain: Imagine the base of your palm is the oldest brain - ruled by fight or flight for survival; the thumb curled into the palm is the emotional brain - triggered by old traumas, overwhelmed moment by moment; and your fingers curled over your thumb is your neo-cortex, the newest part of the brain -- logical, reasonable, and intermittently overruled by the older brains. These also map to the "gut" brain, "heart" brain, and "thinking" brain.
And he also talks about the vertical and horizontal integration of your brain - old/newer/newest brains and the left/right hemispheres. He recommends meditation, of course, for all of this. Meditation, the thing I know I should do that I just can't bring myself to do. The thing that I can recognize would be good medicine for all that ails me.
So until I do that, I'm to notice what path I'm on - how upset I'm getting in any moment, especially when it's disproportionate to the "trigger." Why so mad so fast? Who am I really angry at? What does my emotional brain need? Where is the need coming from? Even if it's irrational, what part of me needs it? And then you figure out how to reassure that childish self, like mom never did. Hence the parenting from the inside out. I like it.
And then this little doozy: I'd heard of "good enough parenting," but did you know they quantified it? 33% of your kid's needs. Or 1 out of every 3 interactions. Isn't that ... a pressure-reliever?
My ongoing task is to figure out why I avoid having hard conversations to the point of thinking about divorce, even though I know that in the past, once we have a conversation, everything goes really well. There's the basic fear of confrontation. Wanting to pace out my criticisms so as not to be a nag. Not trusting my never-ending judgmental nature. (Yes, I judge my judging.) Not believing I'm worth listening to. Not trusting him to want to listen. Not trusting him to stay and change. Because growing up, I couldn't bother Mom with my needs, since she was overwhelmed and just barely hanging on. And Dad wasn't around long enough to ask.
So there was no modeling of healthy requests. Just passive aggressiveness everywhere.
I'm doing better than my parents did, and I'm proud of the gains I've made. But oh, so very far to go.