Therapy: Pain-Killer or Path To Myself? PART ONE
People are most commonly motivated to come into therapy or counseling because they are in serious distress or pain. I know that’s what motivated me to start on my own therapeutic journey many years ago.
Often, it’s only intolerable pain that can bring someone to the point where she or he is ready and able to go and sit with a therapist and start talking about the intimate aspects of his or her life. It seems as if it is often only our pain that can bring us to the point where we are willing to entrust someone else with our own intimate and unique story.
So let’s imagine that, bringing my pain, and no doubt with some fear and misgivings, I make my first appointment, and I start to go to therapy. And perhaps I find that the therapy helps to some degree. Perhaps some of my anxiety or depression abates. I find that the process of talking about the situations in my life, the things that make me anxious, the things that make me depressed brings me some relief. And after perhaps a few weeks, I start to actually feel somewhat better.
Often this can be a moment when it’s easy to believe that the things that brought me into therapy have largely gone away. There can be a sense of freedom and relief. Things can feel good enough that my previous pain starts to feel rather distant. Then the other priorities of life start to seem more urgent and to crowd in, and I get caught up in the old rhythms of my life. Soon I am back, living basically as I’ve always lived. Underneath the surface, the same old issues remain, and if I am honest with myself, the patterns that have governed my life are starting to fall back into place and to re-assert themselves.
Sometimes it can even feel like something is pulling me back into these patterns that are well-known to me and which are, in a sense, comfortable. Those patterns may not give me any relief from my misery, but they are at least familiar, and there is a certain kind of comfort expressed by the old saying “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” In circumstances like that, people can end up learning to ignore their pain, in favour of feeling secure.
It’s easy for me to choose the status quo over going on my personal journey. But who we most fundamentally are continues to call to us. In Jung’s great words, to which I find myself continually going back, “Only that which is truly oneself, heals.” It’s only in having the on-going courage and strength to confront the different aspects of myself that I am going to find the awareness and energy that really transform my life and make my living meaningful.
This is the first part of my series on “Therapy: Pain-Killer or Path to Myself?” I hope that you’ve enjoyed it, and I invite you to share your comments. I’ll be posting more on this topic in the very near future.
Wishing all of you the very best on your journey to wholeness,
Brian Collinson www.briancollinson.ca
© 2009 Brian Collinson