a shifted routine

August 22, 2013Karen Courcy

BookmarksSomething happened today in session that made me really look at how a shift in doing something different, can create a whole different kind of connection – a good, and welcoming connection.

Something so small as a shift in routine created me to see something that I have struggled with my whole life, and it has also shifted my mind-set on how I do things every single day.

Today was my first day back to therapy after a week, and when my therapist came out of his office, he started to walk towards me and I was confused! I got stiff, and wondered why he was walking towards me! He usually puts his cup down and goes to another room really quick before calling me in.

So I quickly thought “this is not the normal before session routine”.. and before I could analyze it, he gave me a hug right there in the waiting room and said “it’s so good to see you“. I smiled and patted him on the back (still stiff from the confusion), and then he went and did his small routine before calling me into the room.

I sat there stunned, slowly looked around and thought “did that just happen?” and I realized  how the smallest shift in a routine can shape the connection and emotions going on inside of me.

I am sure I am not alone when I say I live by a strict routine. I am the type of person that everything happens the same way, at the time time, done the same way, with the same movement. Time is an essence.

In the 6 1/2 years of therapy my therapist has never walked towards me in the waiting room to give me a hug!

We have this routine inside the room once he calls me in. I walk in, put my bag down on the same black leather chair. He walks around me to put his water cup down, and then I put my cup down next to his. We greet each other with a big hug, ask each other how we are doing, and then we sit together on the couch and start session. That has been the routine for 6 1/2 years almost 4 days a week.

When we sat down to session he asked me “so what did you think about the hug in the waiting room?” .. and he wanted to apologize for not telling me what he was doing, but he wanted to show me how good it was to see me, and I needed to realize some things that I hold onto everyday.

A shifted routine – towards something healing? 

I realized and thought back to my childhood and how the abuse of my childhood forced me into a place where routine = survival.

When I was young I had to know what everyone was doing in the house. I had to know everyone’s routine, and my own routine was strict; to the time and place.

Today as an adult I am a routine person. I am strict with my own boundaries. I do the same thing that same way every day. I take the same roads, drink the same drinks, make my bed the same way, and even have little routines that I do before bed that have to be done or I can’t sleep.

There are times I am out of my routine, but today was very different. When my therapist walked towards me I noticed my FIGHT OR FLIGHT kick in to think “WAIT what is he doing” .. and then it was a hug, a really nice warm welcoming hug.

It made me think all day today on how much I am trained to routine and thoughts. It made me realize just how sad it is that I had to go into a quick fight or flight because something was so different and something so connecting like arms being open towards me to welcome a hug because someone missed me.

I realized just how much I was hurt as a child, and just how much I miss out on the small things in life because I was wired to be in protective mode my whole life.

When he called me into the room, I wondered “ok he hugged me in the waiting room, do we do our usual hug before sitting down?” .. the fact that I even have to think about that makes me realize just how damaged the inner part of my thinking is, and how much re-wiring I need to heal from the wounds of my past.

That hug that my therapist gave me in the waiting room today was God’s way of saying “this is something you need to see and heal” .. I should not fear arms and a hug without it being a routine, I should be free to hold anything the good and the bad and learn how to connect to both.

Needless to say, the session was really good and connecting out of a shift that was out of my element.

It’s amazing that one small change in routine – one small shift can not only make me realize something that needs healing, but can create a new kind of connection; one that I can accept as being safe and not harmful just because it’s out of routine.

I wonder and think about all the other people out there who have had a childhood like me who also struggle with routine as an adult and how much we rely on the everyday knowing as a guide.

I think today may inspire me to step out of routine a little and accept what is scary as being something that can be healing.


  • Gel

    August 22, 2013 at 10:13 PM

    Hi Karen,
    That’s really interesting what your T did….surprising you with a change in your arrival routine. It sounds like a good thing. Maybe it is good to have a positive experience of someone else changing your routine, but it’s someone you trust and it was a small change and it was a loving experience. I would think that would start to set up a new association inside you.

    The routines are there for a reason and they serve a purpose. I struggle with changes that are done to me, or that happen from other people. I grew up with moving every year and had a lot of changes thrust upon me constantly. (including new mother figures and new schools frequently and having my belongings disappear on my). So changes thrust upon me are really hard for me. I derive a lot of security and calm from creating my space the way I want it. I believe the eating disorder is a way that I’ve created ritual that I control. Although – of course – that is a very unhealthy way to create security, I know.

    As an adult I actually continued the pattern of moving frequently but a huge difference is that I was choosing to move. And I’ve stayed in the same town for many years.

    Thanks for sharing this topic. It can be good to find a balance between routines that ground us and give us calm and choosing change that causes us to grow.

    1. KarenBeth

      August 22, 2013 at 11:09 PM

      Thank you Gel and yes you are so right.. when routine is taken from us, we find a way to put it back in, but there is no balance .. it’s either all or nothing .. when we are robbed of that routine as children, I imagine the adult part of us OVER does the routine.

      I can SO see why your eating disorder was the only thing you could depend on being the same.. but I am so glad that you saw it as what it was and found a way to gain control over that.

      Thinking back on the hug in the waiting room.. I am touched that he was happy to see me and wanted to connect and maybe it’s good that I allowed something new to be okay.

  • Stigma Hurts Everyone

    August 23, 2013 at 3:50 AM

    I can see how that might have been unsettling and yet you handled it “with grace”:) I am glad you are healing a bit more each day. Blessings

  • Taryn Raulston

    August 23, 2013 at 11:34 PM

    Praise God for the bravery He gave you to step out of your comfort zone and understand the challenge to let go of your routines. What an amazing testimony toward your recovery!
    P. S. You have a beautiful space here.

    1. KarenBeth

      August 24, 2013 at 2:45 AM

      THANK YOU so much Taryn! your comment made my heart smile.. I am glad I can connect with others 🙂

  • Cat

    August 24, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    Very interesting, Karen. I haven’t ever thought about the rigidity of my routines, but they are there to maintain structure and security. A Psychiatrist recently made the OCD suggestion, but I’m not so convinced because they are not rigid in time, as long as certain things are done in the mornings and other stuff in the afternoon… oh, and everything must be done in the same way!

    What I find on my healing-journey is that we are regularly presented with the next stage of our development without having to think,’ where do I head to next?’ Your Therapist sounds lovely, although my stiff upper-British-lip would pass on the hugs!

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