Many of us are prompted to come to therapy for one of two reasons: when something in our lives goes seriously wrong; or feelings such as anxiety (fear), anger and sadness become overwhelming. The last thing we want is for therapy to make us feel even worse.
At first, and also perhaps just before we embark on a major change, spending time in the therapeutic space can feel very uncomfortable. Finally, we find ourselves facing difficulties and tricky aspects of our personalities that we might have been avoiding for months or even years. At the same time, telling our story to another person might also bring relief from carrying around a heavy burden on our own and also a sense of personal agency as we start to tackle our difficulties with purpose. Also, many of the people I work with are surprised as to just how much they enjoy therapy – playing around with ideas and finding humour in the most unlikely places.
It is natural for us to want to cling to our familiar ways of approaching life. This might include how we respond to other people, how well we take care of ourselves and how we take our place in society. The solutions we have found to keep us feeling emotionally safe enough in the world might have served us well in the past and even if they have not, we might not be aware that other, perhaps better, solutions exist. The decisions we have made about how to be in the world (e.g. to put others’ needs first, to avoid confrontation, to attack others before they have a chance to attack us) might make our lives feel uncomfortable but experience has taught us that such discomfort is survivable, which is more than can be said for any new approach with its inherent uncertainty and risk.
Good psychotherapy or counselling will take you (gently) into uncharted territory. At first, it is likely to leave you feeling unsettled or disorientated. This can temporarily add to the distressing feelings you might already be experiencing. In my view, it is essential to establish a secure working relationship with your therapist to sustain you through this important part of the therapy process and out the other side. Knowing that there is somebody supportive alongside you who has no agenda of their own to fulfill and who offers kindness, compassion and a willingness to take risks themselves, goes a long way to making a difficult journey into the unknown feel more manageable. And the rewards from opening up the boundaries of your world to new possibilities can be both significant and life-enhancing.
If you live or work within reach of Brighton and Hove and my approach to psychotherapy and counselling interests you, please contact me via email or telephone 07585 910742 for more information and to arrange an initial consultation.
Copyright: Caroline Clarke, UKCP Registered Psychotherapist and Counsellor
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