During times of turmoil, the therapeutic relationship can provide a refuge, a moment of peace, a place of safety. It is not always like this of course, nor should it be. Sometimes the therapeutic relationship is fraught and frightening – we use the therapy space to grow and as therapists we offer ourselves to our clients as companions in the agonies of encounter with the Other. But sometimes therapy is a refuge. Knowing what is called for at any particular point of a person’s therapeutic journey is one of the reasons that therapists train for so long, and stay in life-long supervision for their work.
But sometimes therapy is a safe harbour. Equally, sometimes we have to look for the safe harbours in our life which will be therapeutic for us. It might be a spiritual practice, or a physical practice. Maybe it is gardening, making bread, stamp collecting, or bell ringing. Your safe harbour might be a particular relationship, or a known and supportive routine. Knowing what it is that provides you with refuge is important.
Dissociation is the shadow of this. When we dissociate we ‘check out’ of life. We become absent, not present. It is not a way of living, but a way of dying. A way of being un-alive. You can spot the points in your life when you have been dissociated, because they are the ones of which you have little memory. Many people say that they can not remember much about their childhood – this is probably because they were dissociated for the majority of the time. It is a trauma response, a way of coping when life does not add up. But it is not living. Dissociation robs you of your life. It is not a safe harbour.
Seek refuge from Life in Life. This koan-like structure can help us with the struggle, and can be a safe harbour all by itself. Don’t dissociate. We miss you when you are not here.