I wonder how much help we get in therapy if we focus on the abuse.
My current feeling is that it is better to spend time in therapy thinking about the kind of fulfilling days we want to have now and in the future, and then to focus step by step on the elements of ourselves that get in the way of accomplishing that forward path.
This might sound like suppression. That's not what I mean. I think we need to carefully deal with the personality ticks to remove them. But I don't know how helpful it is to delve into the past for its own sake. There's a danger that past focus will only create stronger triggers unless one has distanced oneself from it by fully engaging with the life one wants to lead.
I say this because of my own experience with therapy. I was really surprized when, after I told my therapist my story, she essentially said "the past doesn't matter. What matters is what you want your life to be." Then we spent two years in monthly evaluations of my progress toward redefining my career, life goals, relationship goals, etc. and setting good markers for progress.
Then when my lack of ability to focus came up as a problem, we dealt with it, not through discussions of the past, but simply as a fact of my daily life. I got an adderall perscription and suddenly I was able to focus. Then once that happened, new progress could occur.
When the anxieties came up, we talked about the situations I was currently in and what might be causing the problems.
Working that way the abuse is only a set of personality ticks that need smoothing over on the way to the life we want to lead.
I know there are still pieces from the past that will get in the way with romantic relationships, and i know I'll have triggers there if one ever comes up (which I would like to see happen), but now I know that I can handle those triggers, too, by working through the situation as it arises and dealing with myself in the moment of crisis.
But I can say with confidence, that's only true because of the consistent focus on my daily life rather than on the past when I was a wreck. My therapy simply refused to see me as a wreck or in anyway to reinforce the habit of looking at my brokenness. Instead it was a constant reinforcement of my forward motion. The monthly check ins always lead to a greater sense of strength because of the clear forward motion that sometimes my therapist saw better than I did.
Then at one point she said, "I think we're done. It seems like you've met your goals." I couldn't believe it! I know there are still problems. But I saw that she was right in the sense that we had together succeeded in changing my focus from me seeing myself as the "survivor who could barely hold it together" to the focused person daily accomplishing my tasks and moving on. When I mentioned the fact that there were other things to deal with, she said. "Do you want to work through those things now?" And I realized I didn't have anyone in my life to with whom to have that relationship, so until I met the person the conversations with her would just be imagination. So I said, I guess when those new things come up, I should just get in touch? And she said, "yes. I'm always here for you when you need me." And a few things have come up since I was "done," and I have gone to see her, and each time we've dealt with the problem, re-examined the symptoms of anxiety at the root, and I see the pattern I need to deal with a little more clearly. Again the focus always on the present and moving forward.
Because of this shift in focus, I really track my progress, so I consistently see my work move forward, my strength growing, etc. And I know that when the relationship does come (assuming somone comes along), I'll have the ability to get over the humps by focusing on the new goals: becoming able to comfortably have sex, loving someone, etc. as new elements of my daily life dream. And because we worked on the symptoms step by step with clear markers for progress, I know I can make progress. Consequently these relationship things, which a few years ago would have seemed impossible hurdles, now look doable.
One of the most interesting elements of this approach is how normalizing it was. Instead of being a "victim of the worst crime imaginable," I was just another guy with ADD, anxiety, etc., perfectly common and normal problems that plague millions of people everyday.
I saw really clearly that the abuse itself was irrelevant in my current life, and that the only thing that mattered was taking care of the symptoms it had left as habit patterns in my head.
I also saw that once the symptoms had been taken care of (or were being taken care of), I no longer cared about the abuse in the same way. All my incredible anger, "why me" feelings, etc. had no strength anymore. In other words, the more I focused on the present and moving into the future, the more the past was truly the past. I've always thought that healing from abuse should be like normal healing where the scars are barely noticeable. I have hopes this is a way to make that happen.
I hope this is as helpful to others of us as it has been for me.