"Only when it is dark, you can see the stars shine" - Ralph Waldo Emerson
People come to see me when they are in crises.
Existential ones, that is.
In Heideggerian terms ( for "Being in Time" fans), they find themselves ("Befindlichkeit") having a "Breakdown" ( not to be confused with a nervous breakdown, although it may feel that way), because life as they know it, has changed. This "Breakdown" which I like to call "being in the sh**", really is - and please don't throw something at your computer after you read the next sentence - a grand opportunity for something incredible to happen.
Yes, indeed it is.
This "Breakdown" is the roadmap to your authentic self.
You read correctly.
Now let me explain.
As a therapist, I have always believed that what people really want in life, is to be who they really are - their authentic self. And as we journey through life - this life that we are "thrown into", stuff happens - some good, and some not. Sometimes the "not so good stuff" that happens, especially when it happens at a young age, causes a shift in development. To take from Richard Shwartzs, the founder of Internal Family Systems therapy, when the not so good stuff happens, a part of us becomes deeply injured, so much so, that we begin to behave in ways to protect this gaping wound. Because of the pain and shame this part carries - we exile it - and pretend it doesn't exist. We develop many other parts that help keep this exile where we believe it should be - some dark quite place that no one, especially ourselves, can ever find.
Yet the part is forever there, longing to be seen.
So as we go through life managing these exiled parts, unconsciously doing everything we can to keep them buried, some life event comes along that inadvertently excavates this buried secret self. But we never wanted it to come to surface. We drank, or ate, did drugs, exercised like crazy, gambled, over-achieved, you name it, we worked hard to keep it locked away.
But we failed.
This part, or as Heidegger would say, "entity", has revealed itself. It's calling out to you, wanting to be seen and longing to be known. It's the terror of this call that creates the "Breakdown" and you find yourself, "Befindlichkeit", "in the sh**!"
Now there's a choice to make.
Do you reprimand the escaped exile and send it back to it's prison, keep doing what your doing, and hope the crises will pass; or do you hear its call and find the courage to see it, grieve it, love it, then leave it free to be just another part of you?
The former will work for a while, until the part inevitably gets triggered again. Like Jean-Paul Sartre's "No Exit", there is no escape from life, until death, and no guarantee that your best strategy to keep your exile in prison will work over the long haul. In fact, like the stock market, it will once again, crash.
The latter choice however, well, what's that saying about the truth that sets you free?
My hope for you:
Hear the call.
See the unseen.
Be who you long to be.
* Maura Matarese, M.A. LMHC, R.Y.T. is a psychotherapist practicing in Sudbury, MA. To learn more about Maura and her practice, visit her website at www.mauramatarese.com.