Where I am, change is about to be in full swing. Kids here return to school on Monday. This will be my son's first day of Kindergarten ::shiver::. My daughter will have to go to her preschool without her brother for the first time in her memory. My husband and I are grateful for the reduced cost in childcare, but we're not sure how to cope with the fact that our baby is not such a baby anymore.
At work, a beloved support, administrator, and clinician is retiring --- or changing positions, as she says. I haven't known her long, but she has been instrumental in helping me adjust to private practice and in helping me put aside some of the professional demons I've been carrying with me. She is stepping away to spend more time with her family and to take on some other roles. I am glad she is doing what she needs to do for herself and her family, but I will miss having her there as a person and as a resource.
My clients are changing some, too. Those that were available for the summer may be going back to school or venturing off for other goals. I enjoy my clients and the work I do, and I find myself in that mother-y sort of position of knowing that they need to make these changes to work toward their goals, and yet I dislike losing the contact of the sessions. I've been joking a lot lately about how ironic it is that we "people people" become therapists -- the only job I can think of where you're not allowed to make contact with your clients once the job is done. I also find myself wondering where I will find new clients.
The question is how to cope with change. What I think is frightening about change is the unknown. What will happen when my child goes to a new school? How will my role change? What will happen after my client goes overseas? Will she continue the amazing work she has been doing? Who will I be after I change? What will my life mean? How will I handle new expectations?
The antidote to that fear, I believe, is trust. It's a tricky proposition, this trust thing, because, by it's very nature, we cannot prove that what or whom we trust will be able to meet our expectations. Many of us have been through changes that were not our choice and/or were not for the better. Trauma survivors, in particular, tend to see most, if not all, change as frightening.
So, what or whom do we trust? For many, faith beliefs give them hope that a higher power is looking out for them and wants what is best for them. This can be a powerful relief and support for those who are able to hold on to it. I don't mean to reduce faith to a coping skill. For those with faith beliefs, clearly faith is much more than that, but on a basic level, it certainly can help us cope.
Hopefully, each of us has someone (or more than one someone) who feels safe to us. This would be a person who makes us feel more ourselves, who listens, and who supports us even when we make mistakes. This person is not magic. He or she cannot solve all of our problems, but we can trust that this person will be there for us through our change. As I have said before, I believe a support system gives us the courage to step out and try new things (Wow! Attachment theory!). When we have someone we trust behind us, we are less afraid to try and less afraid to fail.
Most of all, I think it is important that we trust ourselves. I don't mean to imply that any of us are perfect or that we always know what the right thing is, but I do believe that we have pretty good guidance if we will listen to ourselves. I tell my clients that their guts are different than what they want, how they feel, or what they think. Your gut is what tells you if you feel safe to share in therapy. It is the part that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck when a situation isn't right. It is the part that can help you differentiate whether you are afraid because something is new or because something is hazardous. If you listen to that part of yourself, you have a pretty good barometer for decision-making.
We tend, however, to ignore our guts. What we learn can be inconvenient. We stay in unhealthy relationships because we fear we cannot find anyone better. We agree to things we don't want to do or that do not feel right because we want others to like us or we don't want to create conflict. We don't want to have to try again or look further or face parts of ourselves that we don't like or that we are afraid are not good enough. For some, their wants and needs have been ignored for so long that they have forgotten how to listen to themselves.
Therapy, I believe, can help with this. My primary goal with most of my clients is to help them reconnect with and begin to listen to themselves. Often, once they start to do so, they find that they are happier with their decisions and with their lives. They feel stronger, and they have ownership of themselves and their choices. Learning to listen to yourself may feel like a risky proposition. If you need a support system to help you feel strong enough to make those changes, I hope you will find me.
As much as I worry about the changes around me, I think we'll all come through. My son will adjust to his new school. My daughter will become more comfortable being at her school without her brother. Frankly, I think they will both come to enjoy the change. I believe in and trust my clients to do what is best for them, even though I likely won't get the end of the story. Their work has been their own doing, and nothing can take that away. Other clients will come, and I will get to start on new journeys with them.
I am thankful for all of the support I have that is helping me through my changes. I hope you have some, as well. If not, I hope you will find me. I would be happy to be there for you.