The question of what progress looks like is one that comes up often in session. What are reasonable goals? How do we know if issues are resolving? Do you just know you’re doing better, or does someone else have to point it out to you?
One way that many clients will see progress is when they encounter a situation that in the past has been deeply activating for them, but now as the situation arises again, they don’t feel as charged up about it. An example of this would be someone dealing with a difficult family situation, where whenever they speak to — let’s say their mother, they always end up in a really bad mood after and feel really bent out of shape. She just has a way of saying things that puts them in a negative space and feeling low.
But then, the client notices that lately, when they speak to their mother, even though she is still doing her usual thing, the whole scenario feels different. They feel annoyed at her, but after the conversation they are able to go about their day and not feel bogged down by what just happened. They may even be able to laugh about it. At a certain point, they may get to a place of acceptance that this is just how she is. And in some cases, the relationship may improve- not because mom changed, but because the client no longer gets activated by things in the same way and so there is less escalation.
To me, marks of progress don’t come with fireworks and a billboard announcing “you’ve done it!” Rather, it’s often through quiet realizations, the moments where you say, “oh, yeah…..usually I would have felt a certain way but now it’s been feeling different.”
Vibrant living doesn’t mean we never feel down. There are certainly people and situations that will get us really annoyed. But when we get activated, it has a way of hijacking our minds and our bodies and incapacitates us from showing up the way we want to and being able to enjoy life. Working through issues can bring various benefits; sometimes, the most dramatic progress can be to have the freedom to not get activated anymore.