I recognized almost immediately following my ex-husband’s arrest that I would need help navigating my path into whatever future version of life would unfold. I sought a therapist to support my journey and was shocked to find two things.
- Every therapist discussed divorce in my initial meeting. This robbed me of my agency to know what decision was best for me and superimposed a timeline that ignored every personal value in favor of something that was societally comfortable.
- “What weren’t you seeing?” was the most prominent question across every conversation with a therapist. This had a hidden undertone that there were signs that existed that I had willingly and consciously tuned out of my vision. I believe things are revealed to us when we are ready. We don’t need to be on a vigilant hunt.
Neither of these were helpful. Eventually I chose someone who supported my own discovery and unfolding of the first point, but who pushed me to think through the second often and early.
While I am an advocate for understanding my side of the street, a 12-stepper phrase that symbolizes my responsibility in any situation, doing so early on in the grieving process did not serve me as a client. It is not exactly like asking “what did you do to cause this?,” but it felt that way. It created a deep doubt in myself to be witness to my own experience.
That doubt still surfaces today. When my current partner and I experience the same event differently, I assume that I am wrong. I convince myself that there is some detail that I am simply unable to see because I have chosen to be blind and if only I can search for and find that detail, then everything will be OK. In this hunt, I define OK as having the same experience. I am fine to contort myself in any way required to find that alignment because my fear of discovering that I am living a very different reality alongside a romantic partner is debilitating.
The logical part of me understands that the lens each of us uses to filter our world is unique and built from the accumulation of each of our experiences. The problem is that I don’t trust my lens because it’s been wrong in the past. The questioning by the professionals early on in my journey caused me to question my very being. I took on an overblown level of responsibility and created a story that everything was my fault. I didn’t think I was the reason that my ex-husband had become an addict but I was responsible being in a relationship with an addict.
What I see now, with the space over the last several years, is that they were right in a sense. The lens I use for filtering is my choice. Before making that choice, I must be aware of my default lens and accept that lens. Only then can I examine how it’s flawed and distorted. When I ignore the original lens, I discount my experience in a way that does not serve me. Seeing my default story – that my experience is a figment of my imagination – creates the choice to see something different. That choice releases me from my desire to have someone validate my original lens. I have done it myself by acknowledging everything that exists for me, including my flawed lens.
That is the key to freeing myself from assigning the value of an experience as right or wrong and instead shifts my focus to trusting my own experience.
What do you need to trust today?