When mental progress begins with new awareness, is it normal for things to get worse before lasting progress occurs?

While I don’t love the word, “normal”, this is very very common, and is something I’d expect in many cases.

This is how it generally goes:

  1. We develop ways to survive particular circumstances as a child,
  2. These methods become maladaptive as adults and get in our way, interfere with our relationships, become obstacles to our goals.
  3. Combined with a distorted sense of self, the individual operates with a “false self” as a facade that protects a fragile inner child. (This occurs in conjunction with #2)
  4. The person goes to therapy because they recognize that their are significant problems in their life, and want help in finding ways to live in the world more optimally.
  5. Together the therapist and patient, learn about many of the underlying issues that may be correlated with their maladaptive patterns and distorted sense of self.
  6. Together they begin to deconstruct the false facade the individual has been operating with for most of their life, which they recognize is causing them many issues.
  7. At some point, of things go well in therapy, the facade is broken down as are many of the maladaptive behaviors.
  8. The individual finds themself without a solid sense of identity, and without many mechanisms, now that they’ve discarded their false self and maladaptive coping mechanisms.
  9. The person feels lost, and even less stable then they did before when they had the use of their false self and old coping mechanisms.
  10. The person now has the incredible opportunity to develop a new sense of self more based on reality and who they truly are, as opposed to one that had been imposed on them by their childhood circumstances.
  11. The person can now develop healthier copying mechanisms that do not get in the way of creating healthy relationships and personal goals.

You can see how in #9 things have gotten worse, but are in fact a sign of progress. While it’s a wonderful opportunity for personal growth, the person generally goes through a period of vulnerability and fragility, before they right themselves and find their way.


July 25, 2019