We come into this world with a unique set of gifts. If we are nurtured and responded to while growing up, and there was a space made for our uniqueness, as well as our feelings, then we are more likely to lead fulfilling lives whereby this uniqueness can be realized. Behind each person’s uniqueness is an animating force, or an aliveness. This vitality seems to propel us forward and motivates us in certain directions. Some people call this force “God”; others call it destiny; and yet others might realize that they are inspired by powerful feelings that they can’t deny, but perhaps have no way to truly explain in words.
Problems ensue when we become estranged from this life-giving force. Maybe we wake up one day and realize that this has happened slowly, over time, with no clear understanding of how or why – we are only aware that it is not present now. Or perhaps there was enough significant loss or trauma that this connection was severed, leaving us to feel “lifeless,” even while we go on with the business of living. When we lose this connection to our essence, or to what we find meaningful in life, we suffer. This, then makes us susceptible to turning to unhealthy ways of generating excitement, self-soothing, or as a way to find relief from our struggles or pain. Substance abuse, repetitive negative interpersonal interactions, dysfunctional relationships that we can’t seem to get out of or change, or a more general bitterness and resentment can all further remove us from our own life-force and unique potential.
It can be difficult to find our way out of these struggles. Therapy can be utilized to acquire help and support to face these challenges. I work with my clients to aid them in drawing upon those spiritual resources which they find most helpful and healing. For some this might mean turning to traditional faith-based practices. Other people find support and guidance from alternative, spiritually based resources such as the 12 steps, mindfulness-focused practices, or body-based orientations. I join with my clients to utilize the pathways which carry meaning and fit with their individual outlook.
Therapy can help us find a way back to ourselves. It can also be a way to discover essential parts of ourselves that never had a chance to be expressed or realized. Sometimes the self that we thought we were (perhaps in an earlier time of our lives) no longer fits. Or maybe we have outgrown this old notion of ourselves but cling to it because we have no way of knowing what other alternatives there might be. The irony, and sometimes great surprise, is that the pain and suffering that a person comes into therapy to address can potentially lead to new and more profound ways of living and being in the world. In this way one’s symptoms, or suffering, can be viewed differently. The symptoms and suffering can be the door to a more integrated and fully realized you.
I also understand that when we are in pain, we simply want it to go away and that is the goal with which many people come into therapy. I very much respect this goal and will work with the person on reducing psychological symptoms, while at the same time, remaining open to other, unique possibilities which might unfold in this healing process. Even amidst suffering there can be a sense that there is more to life. In this way, therapy can also be a journey both into the depths of one’s being and to the very heights of one’s potential. It is here then, in therapy, that we may find meaning and purpose as to just why we are here and how best we might use the precious time and resources which are uniquely our own.