Becoming Your Own Therapist
Mary Ruth Velicki MS, DPT
When I was working as a traditional physical therapist, I tuned in to the main problems for the client and worked on their bodies, but the biggest part of the therapy was setting up their home program. Only through this prolonged practice could the person change her or his movement patterns, strength, and flexibility. As I worked to alleviate my own chronic neck and pelvic pain, my therapists guided me like a coach, but I had to do all the practice. The same is true for healing in the mental-emotional realm.
We may partner with a therapist as part of the healing process, but we learn to heal ourselves through those interactions. We are in therapy for only a fraction of our time; for the rest of our daily lives, we can ignore or undo the messages that have been suggested or we can work to change our perceptions and reactions. Over time, we can become our best therapists. Answering the following questions will give you a little insight into how well you support yourself in the self-discovery process.
1. Are you taking time to look within?
Insight is easier for some people than others, but it is also a skill that can be developed. It often takes time in solitude and silence to tune in to our internal workings.
2. Are you keeping a journal? Before my illness, I wrote only for my professional duties and never for personal reasons. But when the pain rose up, I found that letting the journal page carry my thoughts really helped to lighten my overall burden. Once my issues and fears had a chance to settle outside of my spinning mind, they were often clearer and easier to deal with. Writing allowed me to appreciate where I’ve been and to see the growth that accompanied the pain. Most importantly, writing helped me to appreciate the link between what was happening in my life and my mental, emotional, and physical reactions.
3. Do you feel safe enough to be honest and vulnerable with yourself?
Looking honestly at our less-than-flattering sides can be difficult, but admitting these traits is the first step to getting out of them. The more you grow in self-love and self-trust, the more honest you will become.
4. Are you pressuring yourself to be perfect?
Healing is not achieving a spiritual state or remaking yourself to be pleasing to others. It is simply letting go of what no longer serves you, so more love can flow to you and through you.
5. Are you stepping forward into self-awareness or resisting the process?
Resistance is natural. Our old patterns may not be healthy, but they are familiar and can be scary to change. When I was really resistant, it was almost always because I was really afraid. By observing this resistance, you can get insight into your biggest fears.
6. Are you scaring yourself with what-ifs?
Consider that change is happening all the time, whether we like it or not, and that change, although destabilizing, might not always be bad.
7. Are you developing more independence, or are you clinging increasingly more to a person, treatment, or ideology?
We all need support as we work to heal, but this help should be the scaffolding we use to rebuild our own foundation and structure.
8. When pain or fear surfaces, are you gentle, supportive, and nonjudgmental with yourself?
Sometimes we are toughest on ourselves, and our internal voices can be extremely harsh. Consider how you would comfort a child who is hurting, and then give yourself those messages.
9. Do you allow yourself to make decisions or to have experiences that are different than your usual path?
My life coach in the early healing years, Iben, often encouraged me to consider if a course of action was life-giving for myself or for others rather than asking if it were right or wrong. Asking if something is right or wrong often leads to a judgment within the mind; whereas, asking if it is life-giving may address the needs of the soul.
10. As you answered these questions, what was your inner dialogue?
If you answered no to a question, did you blame or judge yourself? Sometimes we can be tough on ourselves, even as we go about trying to heal ourselves. I know this pattern because I’ve lived it. When my old habits of pushing for achievement start to encroach upon the healing process, I remind myself to decrease my expectations for perfection and to appreciate the challenges and changes along the way.