Enactment

I am going to step right in it.

It’s unavoidable. It’s inevitable. It’s mandatory. It’s practically the only way the process truly works.

Over and over people come to therapy hoping that this will be the one relationship where I won’t ever do the one, awful, terrible, hurtful, intolerable thing that everyone else has always done to them.

And then I do it. Or something kind of like it, or something only a very little like the terrible thing, but similar enough to bring it all back in a flash and make you feel the darkest déjà vu: “It’s happening AGAIN.”

I will be late, or forget your partner’s name, or double-book, or lose an e-mail, or push too hard, or seem preoccupied, or be masking a dip in my own personal energy, or be over-protective, or have a “tone” in my voice, or misunderstand, or misconstrue, or f-up.

And you will be absolutely sure that it’s proof that I don’t care, don’t value you, that I am crazy, or just like your ex-wife, or your father, or that I am too fragile, depressed, not keeping up, or that I left you – or am about to leave you – alone.

Sometimes it will happen right away, sometimes not for a few weeks, or even years.

But – inevitably – I will do it.

If I don’t, we probably aren’t connecting. We aren’t approaching the realm of intimacy. The terrible, messy, liberating sacred zone where your unconscious Self pulls on mine – and we slip, momentarily, into the black hole of our core conflicts.

Sounds like fun doesn’t it?

But that’s how it works. Really.

We all repeat patterns in our relationships, and the therapeutic relationship – although unique, with important parameters – is still a relationship. As we fall into our favorite tried-and-true dance steps, we all pull and lead our partners to fall in line. Even if we want to learn new steps – even if we want to quit dancing altogether – the old rhythms return.

So, whatever it is you want to break free from, we should expect it to happen, watch for it to happen. And when it does – that is our moment to strike! We can see it happening, live, in vivo, in our laboratory. If we can catch it, we can deconstruct it, we can explore what was at play, assign language to it for the first time, or rewrite the narrative, we can transform it, re-work it, create a new experience.

But, I will step in it. If you stay long enough, and want more from the process than some company while you wait out a disruptive brief crisis, I always do.

And so will everyone you ever love.

The road to all intimacy leads straight through the deepest hole of our worst fears and crashes smack into our darkest core conflict.

Lets not hope that it won’t happen. Lets hope that it does.

copyright © 2011 Martha Crawford

7 responses

  1. great. keep it up. refreshing. Honest. smart. transparent and obviously well trained. look forward to more.

  2. I laughed so hard when I read this post because it is so true. My first therapist and I really took the fast boat to enactment-land. Every tiny thing she did (or didn’t do) managed to bring up some sort of catastrophic trauma or deep issue, except it wouldn’t hit me until a few hours or days after my session and then I was left to deal with everything on my own. Which I managed to do surprisingly well, but that in ITSELF was an enactment of having to deal with things on my own in the past. My poor therapist concluded that I really needed to see someone I could contact more easily outside of sessions and told me as much. Of course, I experienced THAT as abandonment, and didn’t react too well! It’s funny to talk about it now, but not so much at the time…

    I ended up staying for another month or so, which did help to experience that no, she wasn’t forcing me to leave. But then one day I sent her an email and she replied to one part while completely ignoring the emotionally significant part, which led to a series of events where I got close enough to suicidal to freak myself out (not that close objectively, but this is scary stuff), and that was when I finally decided to take her referral.

    The irony is that now that I have a new therapist who is happy to call me back within 24 hours at any time or as often as I like…I hardly ever call her. Either the relationship is just different or somehow in my crazy, tumultuous few months with my last one, a lot of things did manage to get processed, even though it felt like we were doing everything wrong. So everything ended well, but I wish my last therapist had done more to warn me about the whole enactment thing, or at least help me interpret what was happening.

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