At the beginning of therapy sessions, we usually have a “Check In”. We each tell the group how we are currently feeling. We feel pressure not to be ok. How can we justify our place, here; how can we claim to be genuinely ill, if we stride into workshops full of the joys of spring? Better to creep weakly in, all twisted up.
In reality, sometimes we’re fine and sometimes we’re not. More often than not, we’re not. Every day is the same, here, though, so the difference must be in us. We’re inconsistent and unreliable and we must accept this.
Our recovery probably begins by acknowledging that the critical component in any situation is not the immutable external facts, but our interpretation and emotional response to it. People are driven, overwhelming, by their emotions rather than their reason, I think. Passion, rather than rational debate sways us; intense emotions, not clear arguments, are memorable. We are not homo-sapiens, we’re homo-affectus.
Therapy relies on the hope that rationality and language can still have some use in self-management. Apparently, we are governed by assumptions, values and beliefs so deeply embedded that we do not stop to question them. They trigger thoughts and emotions, which trigger actions so immediate, and so habitual, as to be essentially thoughtless. Jamie, one of the therapists, calls this instant, un-critical response “fusion thinking” because the beliefs, thoughts and resulting behaviours are all fused together in one unreflective lump.
The therapy team try to train us to step back and examine our mental procedures, and identify what’s going on in our minds. We can then persuade and convince our mad, impulsive sides by the brilliance of our own internal rhetoric, by our impeccable, logical arguments. That’s the hope and theory, anyway. They are very good at bringing the known into focus, defining and articulating it, but it’s difficult to remember even the most carefully explained coping strategy when you’re gripped by the scaly claws of anxiety. I guess it takes practice.