Therapy can make you less nice
16 August 2020
"I'm discovering that therapy can make you less nice."
Becoming ‘less nice’ isn’t something that most people who go into therapy expect, or are looking for. But it’s often an unexpected consequence, which brings new freedoms and possibilities.
So, what do I mean by becoming ‘less nice’? For me, it’s about a combination of things. These include becoming more aware of our feelings and therefore of what really matters to us, and by discovering our deeper desires and values we gain the courage to say ‘no’ to people whose demands don’t match our values.
Therapist and author Elizabeth Meakins says of the uncovering process of therapy*: “What if we do not like what we find? What if others do not love us any more when we bring aspects of ourselves out of hiding? As a patient once said to me, ‘I’m discovering that therapy can make you less nice’.”
As therapist I can try and model being less nice. example, I hold boundaries around time, payment and cancellation, even if that may lead to difficult conversations with the client.
One of the things I’m communicating by holding these boundaries is that my time and my needs are also important, that’s it’s not all about the client’s needs and wants. After all, therapy is about relationship and I’m part of the relationship.
By rubbing up against these boundaries, by allowing in the possibility of conflict or disagreement in the therapy room, the client can learn that it’s ok for them in their own life to have boundaries and to have needs that may conflict with others’.
It’s also about using therapy to help expand the sense of who we are. We are not the small self we think we are, or who others have wanted us to be, we are much larger and more complex.
In therapy we are creating a space where the different aspects of the client can be given a place. These may include ‘not nice’ parts, such as the client’s anger, envy, selfishness, lust. We’re not talking about the client necessarily living out these feelings or behaviours but at least acknowledging their presence, not judging them.
Psychologist Carl Jung argued that the goal of life was not happiness but wholeness, by which he meant accepting all the parts of ourselves and allowing the unconscious to help us become more whole. By paying attention to our emotions, to our dreams, to our creativity we can expand our sense of who we are.
* Meakins, Elizabeth, What will you do with my story?, 2012, Karnac Books, London.