Sometimes we come across unexpected self-care challenges after therapy. Practical self-care challenges in particular are pretty common, and it’s often hard to understand how it’s even possible to be emotionally healthy and still challenged to do some of the most basic life skills.
For example, some of my clients have wildly successful careers, are emotionally well, and cannot face even the idea of opening up a bank statement. Some clients seem to have everything together but are drowning in clutter and can’t seem to get rid of it. Some – like me! – have had to practically battle themselves to come up with a grocery plan.
It’s really easy to go into a shame spiral when facing these types of things, or decide that you’re not really ‘healed’ enough and contemplate going back to therapy to see what else needs to be done.
The truth is, self-care challenges are normal after therapy, and there are some really good reasons why you might be struggling in some of these areas of practical self-care, like planning, cleaning, and finances.
If you are experiencing self-care challenges, see if any of these three things resonate with you:
Reason #1: You Experienced a Wound in Your Energetic Grounding
Anodea Judith, in her excellent book Eastern Body, Western Mind, discusses the chakra system and how wounds related to each chakra can affect our whole lives.
The root chakra, located at the base of your spine, represents your connection to the earth, and in Judith’s work, corresponds to our basic right to be on the planet. Check out this quote from Eastern Body, Western Mind:
“The characteristics of good grounding, connection with our bodies and the physical world, self-nourishment, and self-preservation contribute to the ability to manifest prosperity. I am not talking about being rich here—I am talking about meeting basic survival needs in ways that offer security, stability, and enough freedom to expand beyond survival consciousness. This means being able to keep the rent or mortgage paid, keeping the car in good repair, keeping our homes relatively clean and running smoothly, and putting regular meals on the table. This is about being able to handle the basic demands of the earth plane, the requirements of living in a physical body. In order to meet these survival needs, we must be able to deal with our immediate physical environment—to extract from it what we need for our personal or familial preservation. This is the testing ground of our first chakra abilities.”
Many of us who have been through therapy have had wounds in the root chakra (Judith corresponds this to the time in the womb to one year old.) Direct experiences of fear, neglect and abuse during this time in our development directly affects our root chakra. Even more important, inherited trauma from our parents also affects this chakra.
Though not all, of course, many of us who ended up in therapy had parents who were also traumatized and energetically passed on that trauma to us. If you are struggling to manage your finances, your home, your meal planning, it might be worthwhile to try some grounding exercises instead of shaming yourself for it.
Reason #2: You Don’t Have as Much Practice as Someone Raised in a Functional Family
If given an entire day of leisure, I can easily read one to two books in a single sitting. Reading is one of my greatest pleasures, and no day is complete in my mind without at least 15 minutes of reading (though I would prefer a couple of hours!)
Meanwhile, I engage in heroic struggles to create grocery lists. It takes me more than hour to plan out a couple of meals and get all the ingredients on one list. I get to do psychological work while planning too – am I labeling this food ‘bad’? Do I need to do The Work on thoughts about my meal choices? What can I eat with vegetarian chili? Let me research what people normally eat with chili. Grocery planning is effing hard for me.
It might not surprise you to learn that I had parents who strongly valued education, read to me in utero, held flashcards and repeated words for me with huge enthusiasm, encouraged me to read, got me a library card, and bought me pretty much any book I wanted. I have read nearly every day since I was capable of reading. A day without reading feels wrong, incomplete, icky.
Similarly, it may not shock you to learn that I had parents who both suffered from eating disorders, tried to control my food and weight since early childhood, created chaotic family dinners infused with unspoken rage, and bought me fast food pretty much any time I wanted it.
I entered therapy to deal with childhood trauma at 26. I found a therapist who specialized in eating disorders at 31. From a “normal” food preparation standpoint, I’m still an adolescent, learning what she’s doing. I cannot reasonably expect to be as good at meal planning as I am at reading.
Is it the same for you?
Reason #3: You Are Fighting an Ancient Current of Self-Loathing
Imagine a river that forks into two branches. One branch is the current of self-love, and the other is self-loathing. Often, we end up in therapy because life circumstances directed us down the current of self-loathing.
Heroically, we decided that this path was not the one that was going to carry us through our lives. We grabbed on to a branch and managed to get closer to shore. In therapy, we got to the point where we got into the shallows and started walking back upstream, to the place where the river forked.
Most of us leave therapy before we’re all the way back at the fork, because we’ve acquired the critical skill of walking against the current and no longer need someone to show us how. That does not mean, though, that we’ve reached the fork! We often still have a bit of a journey to go, and just because we know how to walk upstream doesn’t mean it’s easy. It still takes effort. It is still tiring.
It’s so worth the effort, but it takes time, patience and determination to keep going.
If you are still reading this and can identify with these struggles, you are what I call a soul warrior and I want to take a moment to salute you. It is not easy to push through all of these obstacles to create your best life, and I know you sometimes felt like just giving up. Thank you for not quitting. You are someone who offers inspiration and hope to others caught in the current of self-loathing. Thank you for being you.
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