Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced. Soren Kierkegaard
Psychotherapy? Eww That Sounds Scary!
After watching me tack my business card to the bulletin board at the healthy food store, the teenager carrying my groceries to the car asked me what I do. I’m a psychotherapist, I replied. Ewww. That sounds scary, was her response. Then, to her credit she asked, But what do you really do? I help people learn to like the parts of themselves they don’t like very much, I said without thinking much about it. She visibly relaxed. Ahh. We can all use more of that, she sighed. Yes, I thought, we can all use more of that.
And how do we learn to like the part of ourselves we don’t like much? We change the frame from seeing in black and white, right and wrong, good and bad to a frame of appreciation of alivenesss in all its forms. Aliveness is the moment to moment essence of the individual and collective experience. Aliveness is recognizing joy when a milestone is reached, sorrow at a loss, anger at a wrong. Aliveness is awareness of longing. Aliveness is noticing body sensations and engaging them. Aliveness is attending to thoughts. All of this is going on inside you already. You are alive and whole right now!
And as you uncover and contact more and more of who you are, you get to learn new ways to relate to the you that you are uncovering. For example, perhaps in the course of therapy you discover that you are not the patient person you always thought you were. You realize that you can actually be quite impulsive at times. Can you love your impulsiveness as you do your patience? Can you learn to appreciate both aspects? Can you see both as integral parts of your aliveness?
We call this shadow work. The shadow side of all of us includes things we don’t want to know because they don’t fit our image of who we think we are. And, get this, sometimes the shadow contains stuff that is hard for us to own because it doesn’t fit some impoverished or diminished sense of self that we carry. When this is the case, “good” stuff might come our way but we deflect it!
All of this can be hard to sort out without a guide. And that’s where psychotherapy comes in. Through the medium of relationship, therapists serve as guides and midwives, nudging, cheerleading, encouraging, confronting, and otherwise helping people to uncover more of who they are and helping them love all that they uncover.
As summer turns to autumn may you know you and love you more and more.
With love and gratitude,