Just when you screw up your courage and get some momentum going on a tough topic in therapy, kaboom! Your therapist decides she has to go away to a professional workshop for a week. Her departure feels like a bomb exploding in the middle of road, leaving a crater and completely disrupting your therapeutic journey.

It’s not just that you have missed her, though you have. It’s not that she isn’t allowed to go away (though to be honest, you’d rather she never did). It’s that the momentum is lost, and along with it the sense of camaraderie with your therapist, the sense that she is alongside you for the difficult hike you are taking into your emotionally dark spaces.

While she was gone, you didn’t keep on hiking on your own. You are exploring the Caves of Shame, and you are trusting that if you shine a light on the walls of the cave, your therapist can look at them with you without cringing or screaming or snickering. You are trusting that her empathic reaction will make it easier for you, too, to look at those cave walls and say, “Wow, yes, those walls really are covered with bat shit, but that’s not my fault. And it doesn’t mean I’m bat shit, too.”

But on your own, what’s the point of looking at those caves? You’ve done that before and decided that the bat shit is ooze coming out of your own soul. You don’t need to do that again.

So while she’s been gone, you backed away from the caves a little bit and detoured around the crater she left behind. You looked at the trees and wandered around the What’s My Purpose in Life Meadow for a while. You went in circles and lost track of where you left the path to the caves. In fact, you aren’t quite sure where the caves are anymore, or whether you feel like going there anymore. You vaguely remember that it felt important to you, but you can’t recall why.

Now your therapist is coming back, refreshed and inspired. She has new equipment in her backpack that she’s excited to share with you. But you aren’t sure you even feel like going hiking. Let’s just take a nap in the meadow and forget the whole thing.