July 21, 2020

Good Psychotherapy is like Buckley’s Cough Syrup—it tastes awful, but it Works.


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My therapists scare the sh*t out of me.

Yes. There is more than one. Two, in fact. Sometimes three, if the one doing her practicum joins in.

I call them the Witches because, in my mind, there is no other explanation for the treatment they dispense. Like witches of times past, they are healers. Instead of herbs, roots, and potions, they use uncommon (at least to me) tools to make the invisible visible.

Everyone carries around some kind of trauma. Whether it happened in this lifetime or is ancestral, we are all carrying shrapnel inside our bodies; it controls how we interact with the world and the people in it. Hell, it writes the script for the self-talk that unspools like an endless line of ants each and every day from the moment we open our eyes until we surrender to sleep.

Our traumas are the blind spots we don’t see until they are brought to our awareness. And this is what a great therapist can do—bring that sh*t to light.

A friend recommended the Witches to me. “They are a little unorthodox,” she said. Decide for yourself if they are a good fit.” I was intrigued because I love anything unorthodox, anything out of the box.

The witches practice Do Therapy, leaving talk-therapy outside, nervously stepping from foot to foot, incredulous that what she has to say is irrelevant in the den. The witches utilize active tools to heal the emotional and spiritual bodies. Tools like music, invocations, the calling in of saints, guides, archangels, Jesus of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene, Buddha, the higher consciousness of the Dalai Lama, White Buffalo Calf woman. There is the blessing of the sacred space of healing that is the treatment room. There are visualizations that burrow beneath soft tissues, slip between the razor-sharp blades of old traumas, and land in the deep, dark places of the heart. There are psycho-educational teachings meant to arm us with our own wands. There are active sharings.

A good therapist will be able to tell what’s ailing us by examining our traumas. After that, it’s a matter of unflinchingly holding up a mirror and working tirelessly to remove the filters which, like slivers under the surface of the skin, will continue to cause us suffering until they are exhumed.

The mirror the witches hold up is no ordinary mirror. This mirror demands I drop the reflections of how others see me, how I see myself through the eyes of others, my family, my friends, how I see myself through my roles and good deeds. This mirror demands, with each blind spot revealed, that I take in all of my warts, scars, and weeping wounds and do not turn away in disgust and shame. This mirror demands I love myself exactly as I am. Accept myself exactly as I am. Accept that I matter to myself, and despite all of the ugliness that I may at first see in my reflection, believe that I am good.

I often ask myself, who in their right mind would sign themselves up for this work voluntarily, because it does not feel good. It’s not touchy-feely. It’s not a pat-myself-on the-back-for-all-my-victories kind of therapy. (Although there are celebrations, too.) This is more like braking up age-old scars in physiotherapy. It f*cking hurts!

I am terrified each and every time I walk the 11 blocks to their office and yet, put one foot in front of the other only to find myself on their doorstep. It’s as if some ancient part of me knows that the emotional and spiritual medicine being dispensed there is essential to my healing and my soul’s evolvement. This medicine is not filled with daisies and unicorns. It’s a full-on raw-food diet that cleanses my system of all the blind spots I’ve been carrying around as protection from truly seeing myself as I am.

There are days when the ego says, ”I don’t want to go anymore! Why do you bring me here week after week only to have the sh*t kicked out of me, to be subjected to questions I don’t want to answer because it means the death of me? Don’t you see I am dying?”

The ego would prefer I continue with my outdated patterns. It offers me worn-out whips to flagellate myself with for all the wrongdoings I have committed and continue to commit against myself and others. It offers me wine to drink, and habits and addictions that feel good in the moment, but bury the traumas deeper in my psyche where I don’t have to look into their vacant eyes.

Week after week, I have the same conversation with the ego. “You are not dying. I am simply removing you from the driver’s seat and teaching you how to be a good passenger. I am the driver. I may ask you now and again for input on how to navigate through this material realm, but I will no longer put up with your temper tantrums, your blaming, your shaming, your put-downs. I am the captain now.”

And each time I walk to therapy, I force the ego to go to sleep. I take over the reins for three hours. I don’t want to be ruled by my traumas anymore. I don’t want to live in the house of squalor that is my psyche just because it’s familiar and the familiar is comfortable, no matter how painful.


I don’t know if life will be better with the ego in the passenger seat. I’ve never held the reins of my life before with self-agency. I’ve never advocated for myself or practiced activism in my own name.

I don’t know if there is anything better out there, but I am letting myself believe that there is. I trust that by walking out of the house of squalor and crossing the lawn strewn with the squirming bodies of my dying traumas, the mistakes that reach out their arms to me, the hurts with their mouths asking for forgiveness, I will set myself free.

“I see you,” I say to the traumas. “I forgive you,” I hold the hands of all my mistakes. “I love you,” I touch my forehead to all the hurts I’ve inflicted on myself and others.

And every day, I remind myself that:

“…things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” Pema Chödrön


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