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Should I Stay or Should I Go: How to know when it’s time to walk away.

Stop looking for the “right” decision, and learn how to move forward with gentleness towards all parts of you.

“I'll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don't choose. We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”

― Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things

Last month, I said goodbye to my therapist of nearly four years after it became clear that our difference in values was precluding us from doing healing work. In retrospect, I can see the signs of our misalignment were present from the start.  I would have regular gut feelings that this was not the right clinician for me—and I would even share those thoughts with him—but my doubts were written off as yet another sign of my anxious attachment.

The back and forth between, “I need to leave,” and, “Leaving would be a symptom,” is extremely familiar to me. I’ve been in many relationships that felt wrong, but I (or my partners) would attribute my doubts to my trauma history. I know my clients have experienced a similar push-pull when considering their own relationships: “Do I really want to leave,” or, “Would leaving be the continuation of some kind of negative pattern?”

The solace I’ve found (so far) is in accepting that we simply cannot know the “right” answer, but that we also don’t need to know the right answer in order to move forward. The only thing we really need is to trust our initial gut feeling and ourselves enough to handle the grief of letting something go, and sitting with the uncomfortable reality that we may never get a sign from the universe that we chose the better road.

Labels and language about our mental health can be so validating, and help steer us towards the help we need. If we’re not careful, though, they can also become ways we write off our innate wisdom. If you are questioning whether or not your therapist is the right fit for you, one way to help gauge this is to bring your doubt into therapy and notice how your therapist responds.

Ask yourself:

  • When I bring my doubt about the therapeutic relationship into the room, is my therapist able to set aside their ego to hold the conversation?
  • Does my therapist seem genuinely interested in what is not working for me about the relationship?
  • Does my therapist make space for curiosity about my “gut feelings,” even when they aren’t in line with their own interpretation of events?

Practice making a decision—to stay, to leave, to find someone new—and tolerating the uncertainty. Maybe time will tell, maybe it won’t, but you’ll be one step closer to trusting yourself to handle hard decisions.

Photo Credit: And Just Like That...