"Therapy is like having to take a bath; at first you don't want to go but once you're in it; you don't want to get out."
I keep this quote framed on the wall in my office not only as a reminder that we always have much to learn from the innate wisdom of our children but also because Gracie isn't alone when experiencing some degree of anxiety and resistance prior to an upcoming session and once there and settled in; would prefer to linger much longer than the allotted time.
So let's find out why therapy can often feel at first like having to take a bath.
When entering into the therapeutic experience with a trained and skilled professional, there will always be an awareness on some level that if you commit to the process then your life, as you know it, will change. The prospect of change, in and of itself, will always be a source of some anxiety because the client is asking the therapist to take them on a journey into the unknown. Without realizing it, we have all unconsciously developed an array of coping mechanisms over the years in order to navigate and survive our environment which includes the relationships we've formed. These coping mechanisms, often referred to as defense mechanisms, ensure that we minimize our feelings of pain, loss and anxiety in response to experiences of trauma and chronic stress so that we can continue to put one foot in front of the other and function in accordance with the expectations of self and others. The irony is that eventually, over time, these defense mechanisms end up informing dysfunctional behavioral and relationship patterns that become the stumbling blocks which prevent us from experiencing the quality of life we truly desire. Therapy is an opportunity for the individual to increase their awareness around what is preventing them from having their preferred experience.
I once heard or read a story which may or may not be true and could not be proven either way. Regardless, I refer to it often when working with my clients as an analogy to describe my particular style and how I envision my role and responsibility as their therapist.
Someone once asked Michelangelo how he was able to carve the statue 'David'.
He simply replied, "I just carved away what wasn't David."
Over the years I've developed a keen ability to listen with my 'third ear' and reflect back to the client what it is they communicate without even realizing it; essentially what is hidden between their words. When the defense mechanisms are down and there's less attention being given to auditing the self; the individual will begin to reveal how they truly feel and what they really believe. My job is to hear it and reflect it back. In doing so, I am essentially 'carving' away at what isn't them. These aspects have been created as a means of self-protection in order to ensure their survival. By gradually 'carving' away who they aren't; who they really are and what they truly desire begins to reveal itself.
Hopefully, therapy is a journey in which the individual is provided an opportunity to explore what unconscious assumptions/beliefs and dysfunctional behavioral/relationship patterns are getting in the way of them achieving the very things they've identified they would like to experience which always, without exception, ends up being a happier and more joyful life filled with a greater sense of self, ease and fulfillment.
Future articles will weave together exactly how that can be achieved.