capturing the beautiful calamity of healing in therapy

Don’t be a passenger in your own car!

The point of this blog post is to share why getting in the driver’s seat is an essential part of mental health healing.

Before I delve into my rationale, I want to emphasize that when you are a passenger in your own car, you are letting something and/or someone else literally seize control of your destiny.

Many people have no idea who they are or where they are headed, but they laugh when I suggest they get in the driver’s seat of their own lives. Maybe it’s because it sounds so rudimentary. Obviously, I’m driving. It’s my life. 

But, really, oftentimes, it isn’t you, the true essence of you, making the decisions or paving the path, moving and stumbling and growing and existing. Instead, you are riding as the passenger sitting alongside the parts that have taken over you, be it the depression, anxiety, eating disorder, addiction, self-harm, codependency, trauma, societal expectations, phobias, narcissism, or low self-worth.

But when you are the passenger riding alongside a part inside of you, you are secondary. You are the slave to that identity. You are at mercy of where it wants to go rather than where you want to go. Instead of feeling assured and in control, you lurk in the shadows of authenticity, concealed under a blanket of fear. This isn’t done by choice; rather, it’s done as a means of survival. For most, it’s a normal of way of living. But, it’s a way of living that keeps you stuck.

There’s a reason mental professionals steer away from terminology such as, “Oh, he’s Schizophrenic” or, “Yeah, she’s Bipolar.” For one, it’s dehumanizing and demeaning. But beyond that, it’s overarching and encompassing. A disorder is not a definition. That is not you. It is a part of you, a part that may feel overwhelming and difficult, a part you may want nothing to do with or everything to do with, but that’s not who you are. 

And that’s NOT what should be driving!

Validate the impulses; validate the parts that want to take over whether they are the thoughts that sound irrational or the feelings that scare you; look at what they are missing; play detective in your own life; learn how to soothe those needs as best you can. Send them love. Hear what they are saying because only you can be truly fluent in their unique language. Be the compassionate parent for your own demons. There isn’t a single part of you that is broken. There may just be confusion about who and what is leading this journey called your life.

Of course, getting in the driver’s seat is infinitely easier said than done. You have to relinquish some of the safety that comes with living life passively and living life under something else’s terms and conditions. You have to know there is an entire you beyond your perceived flaws, limitations, and setbacks. You may have no idea who that person is, but it’s there, and it’s always been there. There is an entire you that intuitively knows how to drive and how to lead- it may not always be graceful or exciting, but it will be honest, and it will feel just right.

With this, you have to know that you may need to let go of some of the former identity. You will have to put whoever or whatever is currently driving back in t its correct and place. This usually entails changing the way you behave and cope, and it definitely requires emerging from your comfort zone. Time and time again, you will be taking on the risks of stretching those barriers and redefining those boundaries. You may very well be fighting with a part of you that so badly wants the control of your own life. This fight will likely be more challenging and more exhaustive than any fight you’ve had with any other person. Hopefully, it will also be the most rewarding.

You will know you’re in that driver’s seat when you have confidence in both yourself and the world. No matter what happens outside or even inside of you, you know you will be okay and remain in tact. It doesn’t mean you have all the answers or directions, and it sure as hell doesn’t mean life is perfect. It doesn’t mean you won’t get lost. It doesn’t mean there won’t be car accidents or obstacles on the road. And, it doesn’t mean total happiness and freedom. It just means that you- the wholeness and not the slivers and not even the parts that feel so consuming and tyrannical- are the one in charge.