The Instinct to Run as a Signal to Stay

What Trying to Leave Therapy Taught me About Self-Sabotage

I’ve tried to quit therapy about 10 times.

At first, I believed my bullshit when this desire emerged:

“I’m not getting anything from therapy anymore.”

“Am I gonna have to do this for the rest of my life?”

“This is a waste of money.”

But instead of taking the easy path and running in those moments, I did something more difficult: I talked about my desire to leave in my therapy sessions.

What I’ve discovered is painful. Every time I want to quit therapy, it’s precisely when I’m on the cusp of facing something deeply uncomfortable.

It’s only when I bubble that discomfort to the surface (whether it’s a painful memory, realization about myself, or pattern I’m perpetuating) I can grapple with it, inspect it, and feel through it. Then it either becomes a conscious part of me or something I can leave behind because it no longer serves me.

But if I never bring it up — in therapy or out of it — that uncomfortable feeling will stay hidden for years. And it will manifest as self-sabotaging behavior for the rest of my life, masquerading as fate…

I would perpetuate negative relationship patterns. I would keep my art hidden and small. I would live a life of “less-than-what-I-could-be.”

Then I would rationalize it:

“I was destined for this life,” I’d tell myself, not realizing that ‘destiny’ was little more than the full manifestation of my unexamined feelings.

Now my desire to run has become something different: it’s a signal to dig deeper. To ask myself and my therapist:

“Why now? What uncomfortable feeling am I afraid to face? What half-conscious life will I lead if I run from this forever?”

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Author, Editor, and Ghostwriter in Austin, TX.

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