The first part of chapter 5 from Modita’s newly released book, ‘Depression: A Stepping Stone Towards Bliss’, talks about Schema Therapy, Social Isolation, and Entanglement.
And I make it an absolutely necessary point that there is nothing more therapeutic than love. Technique can help, but the real miracle happens through love. 1
My sister tells me that her friend has had a psychological examination – which was covered by her health insurance – in the psychotherapeutic centre ‘de Viersprong’ in Halsteren. This examination seems to me a good opportunity to see which therapy will help me best. I get the required referral letter from my family doctor.
The examination consists of four parts: first, an encounter with a psychologist – then filling out a long questionnaire – next, an interview to determine my character structure and finally a talk with a psychologist who reports the final conclusion of the examination.
The advice to me is: ‘Schema Therapy’.
It is up to me to find a place where this form of therapy is offered. I find it at ‘de Grijze Generaal’ of the GGz (psychological health care) in Eindhoven. It’s a therapy which lasts more than one year, either two or three days a week. I am shocked on hearing the duration; one year is so long! I elect three days per week because I need structure, so the more time I am there the better.
A reference from the family doctor is once more needed. Immediately I make an appointment to get it and the family doctor promises me to send the reference straight away. When I phone the GGz three months later to ask when it’s my turn to start the therapy, however, the reference seems never to have arrived. I have to wait for another six months.
In the meantime though I am offered to be taken on now by the main therapist, to which I immediately say ‘yes’. One week later I’m sitting on the edge of my seat in the consulting room of Ed; a tall middle-aged man with a friendly, somewhat aloof face. I am in a hurry because my depression has already lasted so long. Agitated, I tell him as many details of my hopeless situation as possible and ventilate my great expectation of this therapy. Ed however leans back in his chair further and further and, although he continues to be friendly and laughing he makes it immediately clear to me that he cannot guarantee the success of this therapy and that he doubts whether it will catch on with me anyhow, because I have had so much therapy and still I am depressed. He doesn’t see why this process would suddenly help me now. He also thinks that my patterns might have got too engrained in me because of my age… Moreover he thinks that I won’t really fit with the people who will be with me in the group because we have very different backgrounds; for example, they don’t have any interest in meditation.
The small trace of courage that I had left, sinks down to my boots. I feel now that the success of a therapy will not depend so much on the form of the therapy, but on me.
To go through a therapy does not automatically guarantee success. Despite so many valuable things having been handed to me in the many workshops, groups and therapies that I’ve had in my life, I have not been able to integrate them into my life so far.
Although before the conversation with Ed I was still wondering if I would start this kind of therapy, which is so cognitive – coming from the head – I feel now that I want to fight to be allowed to take part in it. I convince Ed that I will do everything possible to make this journey successful and he puts me on the waiting list.
Outside the swing doors of the ‘Grijze Generaal’ I am struck again by doubt: ‘Modita, you don’t want this, do you? Aren’t you one of the people in favour of emotional bodywork and gestalt therapy? Such a cognitive therapy doesn’t mean anything to you, does it?’ Being a patient of the GGz means for most of the people in the outside world that you are at least a little bit crazy, which is hard for my ego.
When three months later I have the introductory talk with Anja – one of the therapists of my future therapy group – my doubts disappear. Not so much because of what she says, but because of who she is. I feel an instant click with her. She greets me in an equal way and looks at me with friendly, shining eyes. We take a seat at one of the tables, which are arranged in a square. Anja turns out to have been in India a lot, just like me, where she has participated in several retreats. When I tell her how many doubts I’ve had about this form of therapy, she says that it’s good to be critical and that this therapy is not appropriate for everyone. I appreciate her honesty, although something in me would have preferred her to say: “This therapy is definitely going to help you.” Then I could have pushed away my own responsibility.
When I express all the worst case scenarios I have about my future and the sad reflections on my past, she brings me back – from a strong inner determination – again and again to: ‘being with what is; feeling without judgment what is here in the moment’. This appeals to me; it comes together with the message of Osho and with my own longing.
The purpose of the schema therapy is that you start investigating in detail what life patterns (schemes) you are involved in and why. Then you examine step by step what you can do to free yourself from this. The therapy is divided into blocks, ranging from a half an hour to an hour and a half. There are verbal blocks: these consist of cognitive therapy (in which you gain more insight into the schemes you are using), sharing rounds (sharing about what you are going through in your daily life, and in which the group members and the therapist can give feedback) and one hour per week in which you examine your home-work-and-leisure situation. There are also non-verbal blocks: psychomotor therapy in a gym (where you work with everything that you encounter through games and in physical contact with others) and creative therapy (in which you expresses your feelings and life themes with materials like paint, clay, fabric, wood or soapstone).
Every week one of the group members organizes a block in which he or she talks about a hobby or interest – giving the others a taste of that – or organizes a game, a movie or a walk.
We have all in all six therapists for all these different blocks.
The non-verbal therapy forms appeal to me most. They are in line with what I have experienced as so valuable in gestalt therapy, emotional bodywork and the workshops and meditative therapies in Poona.
My group consists of eight people, who are all in different phases of the therapy. The longest in the group is already there for more than a year. The most recently arrived participant is there just a month.
A week after the conversation with Anja I meet with the group. When I enter for the second time the bare group room – they don’t make it cosy on purpose so that you don’t want to stay there, I quickly check if I feel a click with somebody and I heave a sigh of relief; everyone seems to be nice. I introduce myself comprehensively, being as open as possible about myself because I think this will speed up my process.
Looking back it appears that the members of my group are startled by my verbose introduction; they fear that my verbal presence may inhibit them getting a word in during the therapy blocks. They also turn out to be not exclusively nice. Even from the very first Monday a struggle for time and attention starts between me and the young woman who is the longest in the group. I also get into trouble with her that first week, because she is so helpful that it suffocates me.
I miss meditation as part of the therapy. It is there, but for no more than five minutes per week in the form of a guided visualization. We conjure up in ourselves a safe place, where we can always return if we want to feel secure and at ease. For me it is the white plastic chair on the edge of the swimming pool of the Osho Meditation Centre in Pune, under trees which shine in the morning light. I miss Pune very much but know that I need to be here at the moment.
Ed was right that I would find it very difficult, most people in the group having such different backgrounds to me. They come from a very different environment and don’t have to do much with meditation. I experience their being-different as threatening.
The purpose of the schema therapy is that you start investigating in detail what life patterns (schemas) you are involved in and why.
In the first three months I discover my main schemes:
– social isolation
– failing and inferiority
My schema of ‘social isolation’ is immediately evident: apart from with my sisters I barely hang out with anyone, out of shame that I have no work or children (even though I have consciously chosen the latter) and therefore don’t share anything meaningful with the world. Besides that, I envy others and stay away from them so as not to be confronted too much with the sparkling lives they lead. On one hand I feel inferior but, on the other hand, I feel more special than others; two sides of the same coin.
I discover in the cognitive therapy that I have cut off my emotions, not to feel the lonely vulnerable child in me. I have been hiding behind a distant, sometimes haughty guardian, who approaches everything from the mind.
Another defence mechanism that I have developed is to dissociate from the established order and give the impulsive, undisciplined child in me free play.
It is hard to really acknowledge and accept the vulnerable child in me, because this fragile child is even more afraid to be hurt when it shows itself. I notice however, that I have much more the feeling of really being alive if I dare to be vulnerable than when I armour myself and lose the connection with myself and with others.
After three months as well as the group therapy I also get individual sessions with psychomotor therapist Theo. Theo is a quiet, sensitive man with sharp eyes, who accurately observes someone’s smallest movements. Just drawing conclusions is something he doesn’t do. The questions he asks me give me a lot of space, and when I have told him something, he often closes his eyes to absorb it totally and to really understand it.
In one of these sessions Theo and I are back-to-back and very close together, a small distance between us. We close the gap by moving our backs very slowly together, until we are leaning against one another and then move away from each other again – all this without talking. The intention is that I perceive in detail everything I feel. Theo himself does this also. Then we share our experiences.
It is scary as hell for me. I want to do it ‘right’, but do not know what is ‘right’ in this case. I feel the first touch. Theo is very careful. Because of fear my sturdy part takes over; I will just show that I am not afraid and that this is a piece of cake for me. I lean heavily and had hoped to get more pressure back from Theo. Immediately afterwards I’m afraid that I’m too demanding and ask too much, or that I am too dependent. I’m scared to death of being rejected and concerned that Theo will break the contact. So I decide quickly to be the one who ends the contact. Pretty soon I release myself from his back. When the connection is broken I feel very lonely and sad. I associate the loss of contact with the loss of my twin sister in the womb. When we share our experiences Theo indicates that he felt contact with me for a moment and regretted that just when he wanted to rest in that contact, I was already gone.
It feels good that I have experienced so much in just two minutes. It feels like being alive and not depressed, because I feel. I find it nice that Theo would have liked to have connected rather longer, but I also find it threatening that he feels something different to me throughout the whole exercise. I recognize that I always hope that someone else is exactly the same as me and that I often become angry with others when they appear to be different. I don’t know whether this has to do with missing my twin sister or with the symbiosis with my mother, or maybe with both. I am learning that having contact has to do with resting in my own body and enjoying this, by which I allow the other to do the same and to also be him – or herself – and that the exchange happens in the contact area of our being-different. It is very scary for me to enter into this. I have to dare then to be alone with myself, with my own feelings. This ends the symbiosis I have had with my mother so long. Only when I accept the being-different of the other, can I really meet him or her.
After a couple of sessions with Theo I find more and more rest and a basis in myself, from where I can connect with the other person without losing myself.
First in the therapy group and later also outside the group, I practise with this. It takes trial and error. The members of my group give me positive reflections in their feedback. Little by little I start enjoying the new experiences between me and the other, even when I face difficulties with it; because now I see these difficulties as a challenge.
The schema ‘entanglement’ is a tough and difficult one, which already exists at my birth: I start being entangled with my mother when I feel how much pain she carries inside. I identify with her and try to carry her pain by proxy, which in the first place is not possible; it is the pride of a child to assume such power. My entanglement with her means I hardly learn to feel myself or to develop my own point of view.
In the family I feel very responsible for maintaining harmony and take a mediating position, in which I don’t ask enough attention for my own emotional needs. In conflicts I twist and turn to make sure that the others feel good, without asking myself what I feel or need myself.
This entanglement becomes a pattern; I get entangled with my sisters and with the people of the workshops and trainings I follow. It’s almost impossible for me not to get entangled.
When for example at a party Mrs ‘Babble’ says something, and I see that Mr ‘Silent’ also tries to speak, I ask Mr Silent a question, so that he can also be included. Then I feel guilty that I have interrupted Mrs Babble. Being then so occupied with apologizing to Mrs Babble I don’t even hear Mr Silent’s answer to the question I have asked him. I’ve also seen already that Mrs ‘Critical’ is irritated by all this, so from that moment on I am also trying to appease Mrs Critical. In this way I lose a lot of energy.
The entanglement also gives me something positive, however. My efforts give me the feeling that I matter to all these people; I make sure that everyone gets a word in and feels comfortable. The price I pay for it however is too high; I lose the connection with myself and don’t follow my own feelings anymore.
It takes me a lot of effort to step out of this schema. For this I need the courage to stand alone and in myself. Meditation helps me, even though meditation is very difficult during my depressions. When I do an active Osho meditation (about which I will speak more later in this book) at home, it gives me a good feeling. By meditating I feel an anchor point in myself, on which I can always fall back.
In the years after the schema therapy I am increasingly able to untangle the intertwining knot. I recognize earlier when I am entering this schema and can decide to stay out of it. More and more I lead my own life, in which I set my limits and no longer need to give meaning to my life by entangling with others.
1 Quote by Osho from The Great Pilgrimage: From Here to Here, Ch 14
First part of chapter 5 from Modita’s newly released book ‘Depression: A Stepping Stone Towards Bliss’. The second part, A Zen stick – Thank you Meera!, will continue with Failing and Inferiority, My experience with the Schema Therapy, and The Art Therapy Training.
Modita is a (non-practising) doctor of medicine and since 1995 facilitates meditation courses, meditative therapies, silent meditation weekends in Nature and Family Constellation.
Review by Lysan van Winden of ‘Depression: A Stepping Stone Towards Bliss’
Dutch original available from bol.com