It’s been a few weeks since I “graduated” my first series of therapy sessions. I’ll probably be going back later, but for now I’ll try to apply what I have learned.
I’ve been meaning to write about that, but I also realised that trying to capture it all in a single writing would mean I’d be writing something so long that most people wouldn’t want to bother reading it… so instead I’ll pick a few individual areas to dive into.
The main reason I went to therapy was to learn how to better deal with my anxiety, and more specifically to prevent me from spiralling into a tailspin if I did something wrong.
The event that pushed me to finally go to therapy was a situation where I made a big mistake during play. In the aftermath I went into such a deep spiral of guilt-driven self-flagellation that instead of being there for my partner I was completely absorbed in my own feelings… not good at all.
A lot of my therapy focused on improving my self-image, helping me be more gentle with myself.
The thing I’d like to highlight today is something else though. My therapist told me about the steps needed to process a stressful event.
First you need to physically get rid of the stressful energy by some form of movement. Running works, and so does shaking and shivering. Next it’s important to find nurturing. This can be by seeking out physical comfort from another person, or cuddling a pet, but it can also be curling up under a blanket to feel safe.
I’ve been trying to do these things and I found they help a lot. Being held can be such an immensely powerful thing, as is holding someone else.
It’s not always an option though. Recently I had a situation where I was home along and got hit by a wave of anxiety. Getting rid of the physical energy was easy enough, but the second part was harder. The blanket didn’t feel like what I needed, I felt a strong need for more physical comfort.
Then I saw the plushie dragon I’d bought as a gift for one of my partners for the next time she’d come to visit. My therapist had explained that these needs were not uniquely human, they resided deeper in our brain and most animals had them too.
I figured I’d give it a try, and snuggled up with the dragon. I held it and softly stroked it like I would with a cat. The relief was almost instantaneous.
Now every little on this site is by now probably stamping their feet (in a most adorable manner) and rolling their eyes going “Well, duh!”
They’re right of course. So why do I even bother writing this? Well, because of the mental work I needed to do to accept that I was there holding a stuffy. Me, an adult man “who shouldn’t bother with childish things”. Which tied into a whole other area from therapy, how though I hate toxic masculinity I internalised a whole lot of it.
I was also mentally scolding myself that it was an inanimate object, which is where the being gentle with myself came in. Since yes, it’s inanimate but my lizard brain doesn’t know that and doesn’t care. It’s soft, it’s warm and it feels safe.
In fact, in some ways it’s the perfect form of self-care since it’s you taking full responsibility for your own needs. You’re not putting them on others.
Stuffies are awesome!