The other weekend as I was packing up books and dishes into moving boxes (my husband and I are moving to a new house this week), I streamed a movie on my laptop to keep me company.
It was The Matrix and I hadn’t watched it since it came out in 1999 and I was still in high school.
I was half watching, half listening to it as I went about my packing, reflecting on how unbelievably cool Morpheus and Trinity still seem after all these years, when the watershed scene with Morpheus and Neo came on.
You know, the one where Morpheus gives Neo a choice about whether he could take the Blue Pill or the Red Pill and delivers a little monologue about what it means.
Watching it, I realized this scene (and The Matrix in general) is a great cinematic metaphor for therapy.
To learn why, keep reading.
Red Pill, or the Blue pill? Why therapy is a lot like The Matrix.
Often, in my work as a therapist I get asked iterations of questions like these:
“Why would I want to do therapy if it’s going to feel so uncomfortable? Why should I talk and think about my past – yeah, I know it was bad but I just want to move forward. Why do you write about such depressing things on your blog?”
They’re fair and reasonable questions and believe me, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that going to therapy or the topics I write about on my blog may not be for everyone.
But, for others, it’s possible that therapy or reading about complex therapeutic topics, can be powerful and transformative.
I believe that therapy or supporting yourself through reading therapeutic material, can be uncomfortable, yes, but it can also help you see more clearly and perhaps live more freely.
For example, you may have trauma, pain, and challenges in your life that you haven’t faced but yet are nevertheless impacting you in your everyday life.
Issues, perhaps, like constantly picking the “wrong” person over and over again as a romantic partner; or feeling a deep sense of depression despite everything “looking good on paper”; or even a lack of self-esteem that keeps you from asking for the raise you deserve or the launching the business you dream of.
All of these issues may be the kinds of “symptoms” you may want to address in therapy.
But what you may not know is that the roots of these symptoms may be deep and old and that you may have to go back in time and face memories and parts of yourself that you’ve repressed or distorted in order to transform and heal those symptoms.
So in this way, when we decide that we want to change our lives and when we begin the unearthing, exploratory work of therapy to help resolve present-day symptoms, it can be a bit like going down the proverbial rabbit hole to “Wonderland” – it’s a journey that you may not know where it will take you, how it will end, or if it will end.
And, like how Morpheus said to Neo, “all I’m offering is the truth, nothing more,” as a therapist, I can’t make promises of outcomes to therapy clients when we begin the therapy journey.
I can’t promise that you will be comfortable (it probably won’t be sometimes). I can’t promise that this process will feel tidy and linear (in fact, it’s usually the opposite). I can’t promise that you will achieve the outcomes you want in the timeframe you want (along the way your desires may change and shift and the process takes as long as it takes).
Therapy does not come with guarantees.
All I can do is offer up myself as a skilled guide to help you do the brave, often uncomfortable work of confronting your own personal truth, your past, grieving it, making sense of it, and perhaps making new and perhaps more constructive choices and self- and other-beliefs.
So in this way, beginning therapy is a lot like taking the Red Pill.
It may not be comfortable but it can help you see yourself and your past and patterns and world beliefs more clearly, all of which can allow you to ultimately live more freely.
Now, in The Matrix, Neo took the Red Pill and woke up to the reality of the machine-imposed subjugation and farming of humans for energy sources and became The One.
Your own “waking up” process will, obviously, look different.
You may not necessarily be ordained by a cookie-baking Oracle to be The One, but you can be The One – the heroine – of your own life.
The heroine who chooses to see her own personal truth and set herself free from illusion versus staying “comfortable” but possibly blind to reality.
And, of course, you can always take the Blue Pill.
You don’t have to begin therapy. You don’t have to confront your past. You don’t have to explore or look at anything you don’t want to. You can keep going as you have been and that’s perfectly okay!
It’s not my place to tell you whether it’s time for you to begin therapy or not. Only you can make that call.
But, if you’ve had a niggling sense that something’s not right, that the goals and outcomes you want can’t be achieved no matter how many action plans you make and intentions you set, if you suspect that there’s some deeper, more historical work it’s time to do, some part of you may be trying to tell you that it’s time to take the Red Pill.
So why did I write this post?
Well, aside from my recent geeking out over The Matrix and its apropos therapy symbolism, I’m planning on writing a series of articles this summer that are particularly geared towards folks who have experienced complex childhood relational trauma and the issues they may or may not be dealing with in their present lives.
In other words, there’s a whole lotta Red Pill articles coming at you.
If you’re not wanting to read these pieces, if the topics don’t resonate with you, I totally understand! I’d encourage you to check out the nearly 75 other archived articles I’ve written over on the blog and/or check out the 70(ish) press and media articles I’ve either written or contributed to.
But if you want to take the proverbial Red Pill and accompany me a little further down the rabbit hole, I’ll be back in two weeks with the first in a series of articles which I truly hope will feel helpful to you.
And until next time, take very good care of yourself.