“When clients come to therapy to ‘free themselves so they can be themselves,’ in a hermeneutic sense, they do change by becoming who they really are,” writes Maura A. Matarese.
In her new book, Finding Hope in a Crisis: A Therapist’s Perspective on Love, Loss, and Courage, psychotherapist Maura Matarese offers the stories of hope to help her readers see that, even in the midst of a relationship crisis, they can find hope, compassion, and courage — and even creative solutions to their problems.
Matarese begins by describing Freud’s discovery of trauma in the histories of women suffering from hysteria, then goes on to discuss Freud’s decision to turn a blind eye as an early precursor to modern psychotherapy. Matarese writes, “By reinforcing the learned behavior of silence when one witnesses or experiences trauma, I believe this silencing has trickled down into individuals and family systems, where many people in relationships either deny their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors or just don’t know how to talk about them.”
Yet despite this, embedded in the solutions have always been stories of defiance. Matarese writes, “Throughout time, writers, painters, actors, and musician have been creatively defying and addressing social issues, including the crisis of love and its loss, through their artwork. It’s their collective creative solution, intended to give us all hope, which, in turn, sparks change.”
Starting over is never easy. However, when we understand our attachment style, it becomes much easier. Matarese writes, “When people feel like it is Groundhog Day all over again with their partners, acting out the same fight or being drawn to the same kind of person who really isn’t good for them, then they are indeed stuck in a repetitive pattern, which therapists call repetition compulsion.”
Through first understanding, then healing our attachment style, acknowledging that no one person can complete us, honestly assessing our willingness to continue playing, and finding the courage to know what is right for us, we can learn to keep making ourselves available for love, even when the odds seem stacked against us.
Matarese also notes the work of James A. Lynch, who finds that U.S. mortality rates for all causes of death, and not just heart disease, are consistently higher at all ages for divorced, singles, and widowed individuals of both sexes and all races.
However, many people get stuck in abusive patterns with their partners, hoping things will change. “In a nutshell, the magnetic pull that you feel toward another has much to do with implicit memories developed during your attachment phase. It gets triggered much like the subliminal flash flames in the drive-in when you meet someone who subconsciously reminds you of what’s familiar.”
Implicit contracts often maintain abusive relationships, much like Matarese’s client Karen: As a four year old, Karen did not know how to stand up for herself; she couldn’t run away. Those are not skills any small child has. Instead, she developed a belief that it was her job to take care of her mother’s emotional needs.”
For Karen, and others like her, Matarese advocates safe trusting relationships and an intricate balance of connection and freedom. She writes, “When I talk to couples who have been happy together for twenty, thirty, forty-plus years, I often ask them the following question: If your partner wanted to leave you, what would that be like for you? They all basically respond the same way, saying that they would be very sad and that it would be hard to imagine life without the other. But many of them said this: I would let them leave because I would want them to be happy.”
Much like great sports victories, change in psychotherapy often means coming back from behind, cultivating hope when it is lost, and charging bravely forward. For this, Matarese offers seven strategies: Ask yourself: If anything were possible and nothing mattered, what does my heart long to be, do, or have?; Focus on what does lift your heart; Allow the parts of you that tell you why you can’t (or shouldn’t) be, do, or have this to come forward; Send all those naysayer parts of you lots of compassion; Allow the deeper fears to emerge in their own time and way; Shift your focus; Wait and listen.
Filled with stories of hope and lessons of growth and acceptance, Finding Hope in a Crisis helps readers discover what they really want out of their relationships — and life — and then gives them the tools they need to find their path.
Finding Hope in a Crisis: A Therapist’s Perspective on Love, Loss, and Courage
Balboa Press, May 2018
Paperback, 176 Pages