One of the most common reasons clients start therapy is out of a fear that they keep dating the wrong person. Most of these women are highly intelligent, have supportive friends, jobs and in all other aspects of their life, are doing great... but the closer they near 30... then 35... then 40, failed relationship after failed relationship, the more the thoughts begin to swirl. "Is there something wrong with me?", "Am I attracting the wrong kind of person?", "Should I just give up on love?"
Let's set the record straight off the bat. No, there is nothing wrong with you and you are not broken. I know I probably don't know you but even so, it's the truth. We all have what's called an attachment style and it is heavily based off of the relationships we had to our caregivers and/or traumatic relationships and experiences that happened during our development. While these things determine how we love and who we are attracted to, it doesn't mean you are broken or unable to have a happy, healthy relationship (if that's what you want). While there's no way I could actually cover all of these concerns directly without having met you in a therapy setting, I've made a list of questions to consider if you feel like diving in to understanding yourself in relationships.
You are SO much more than just a trauma survivor. The fact that you survived what has happened to you is truly amazing but it does not have to define you. You don’t have to be ready for recovery just yet.. but believe me when I tell you that you CAN survive the recovery. If you’re hesitant right now, but know you want to talk with someone some day that’s okay.
Maybe you're here and reading this right now because you've experienced something truly devastating in your life. Maybe you're here because you've noticed that you have a tendency to date all the wrong people. Or maybe you're here because you're not entirely sure if you've had something happen to you but you can't remember much from your childhood and you want to understand why. Whatever motivated you to start reading this post right now.. that is the part of you that's ready for healing, ready for change and ready for peace. You might think you're not even close to being ready for therapy but what I see is that little curious part of you that's reading this right now who is actively finding a safe way to begin healing.
Trauma truly messes with our ability to handle stressful situations and attempting to work on trauma or understand what your options are when you’ve never been to therapy can be very stressful. For now, consider breaking this daunting task into small, accomplish-able steps.
Maybe step one for you might be to write down your anxious thoughts in relation to finding a therapist. You can even break those thoughts down to questions such as:
Pick one question that you’d like to tackle. For example, “where do I find a therapist?”. Make space for this question. Call it into existence. And when you feel called to answer this question, look around you to find the answer. Perhaps you’ll remember that you follow a therapist who frequently posts about this sort of thing... maybe you feel comfortable asking a friend who’s gone to therapy how they found therapy.. hell, you might even just start by Googling your question just to see what pops up. There are many different ways to answer these types of questions but the most important part of trauma therapy and healing is empowerment so above all else, listen to your wisdom. Listen to what you need and give yourself some self-compassion around taking your time to find the answer. By giving yourself the time and self-compassion you need to start therapy, you’re sending the message to the universe that you deserve those things in your healing experience.
A trauma therapist who knows just how much you are worth
If you follow me on Instagram, you'll probably notice that I talk a lot about perfectionism and my own journey as a "perfectionist in recovery". If you're a fellow perfectionist or PIR who's struggled with therapy for whatever reason, I feel you. The tendency to waver between wanting to be the best client or fu*k it all, runs deep through my veins.
Several years ago, I turned to therapy because I was going through a difficult time in my life. The first time I ever went to therapy, I was very resistant to change, felt like I was a “bad client” and ended up just ghosting my therapist after only 4 sessions.. Talk about being scared of vulnerability and clinging to my perfectionistic perfect/fu*k it all tendencies (also, sorry old therapist)!
Years later, I tried therapy again. I thought.. maybe my old therapist was a bad match.. I'll just try to find someone who has an expensive degree from an IVY league school, definitely PhD level only, supervisor level, charges half the cost of my rent per appointment. I thought nobody would understand me except THE best. After several weeks with said therapist, I found something wrong with them, too.. Dumped them and decided therapy wasn't for me.
Years later again, I gave therapy "one last try". This time I was in graduate school for counseling... (I know, right?) so I felt more in control of the situation (perfectionist tendency) and felt a bit more eager to start looking at ME and unveiling my truth. Thankfully, my therapist was a badass who knew a thing about perfectionism and control in therapy. My previous therapists worked around my control, but this therapist named it. And naming it has meant everything.
I learned that my tendency to want "only the best", most experienced therapist was actually getting in my own way of getting help. Sure, experience is great but when I started graduate school, I learned that the single most important predictor to therapy success (client's subjective experience of how well therapy worked), is not experience, where they went to school, or how much they charge.. it's about the relationship the person has with their therapist. My desire to find "the best" therapist only pushed off my own healing and processing around my stuff for another few years.
I also learned that therapy, like meditation or mindfulness, is a practice. You know what's the opposite of practicing something? Trying to be perfect at it. If you're like me and you've ever ghosted a therapist, had a terrible experience in therapy, didn’t know what to talk about, felt like you “wasted” you or your therapist’s time, or resisted change.. that’s okay! Like with any practice, we get better the more we practice, some days we are on point, and some days we’re just happy we even showed up. It’s a practice. Stay curious about your process. Are your goals aimed at perfectionism or practicing showing up for yourself?
One of the best practices I learned through therapy is to compassionately challenge my inner-perfectionist when her voice comes up. Questions I ask sound like "is this me or my inner perfectionist talking?", "what is it about this situation, person, event, etc. that's causing my inner perfectionist to come out?", "what does my inner perfectionist need right now? (Nurturing, to feel safe, rest, etc.?)". Talking to my inner perfectionist in a kind, compassionate voice that I would use towards a friend has been a game changer. It's turned life from IFEELSHAMEABOUTALLTHETHINGSIVEEVERDONEEVER to a loving, warm relationship with myself more days than not.
When clients first start therapy, there can be a lot of shame language or feelings of shame that end with early client termination, lying or ghosting of their therapists. Owning up to mistakes, speaking kindly to yourself through the process when you have bad therapy days or treated your therapist poorly, is all a part of the practice and work that you invest in yourself. Therapy isn't meant to be a place where you get 100% validation and the warm and fuzzies every week. It's difficult and challenging.. it's a practice. It does get easier the more that you navigate who you are and how you get in your own way.
Therapists know all about this kind of stuff so if you’re struggling with a difficult time in your life or feeling lonely in your process or recovery, just know I see you. Keep seeking your truth. Keep practicing. It’s okay to make mistakes along the way (or even ghost your therapist)... It’s never too late to show back up for yourself.