Therapy is not about ‘fixing’ but about enquiring into our pain
7 June 2021
“One of the most important moves in psychotherapy is to take whatever is presented and simply hold it and give it a place.”
The quote above, from psychotherapist Thomas Moore, points at an important element of ‘soulful’ psychotherapy. This is that it adopts an attitude of exploration and enquiry rather than problem fixing.
Sometimes, when we can simply stay with a problem that seems intractable instead of quickly seeking a solution, something different can emerge.
This can be a difficult concept for many of us to accept. Understandably, when someone comes to therapy it is because they are in some kind of pain and it is natural to want to remove the pain as quickly as possible.
We also live in a society where there is a big emphasis on quick fixes to difficult emotions. If we’re feeling down we’re encouraged to take a pill, have a drink, develop a ‘positive’ mind set etc. The implication is often that mental pain or disatisfaction is a problem to be fixed rather than something to be experienced and enquired into.
The desire for quick results can go against the spirit of psychotherapy, especially the kind of therapy that takes seriously the mysteries of our psyche and the unfolding of our path.
For example, it may be that what we are experiencing is a necessary part of our journey and that it is pointing to something in our life that needs attention.
This could be something undigested from our childhood or even from a previous generation of our family. That may sound strange to some people, but I believe that sometimes unprocessed pain from previous generations can somehow make itself felt by us. This is one of the teachings of family constellations group work, which is an approach that enquires into how events in our parents’ or previous generations’ lives can impact what is happening in our lives today.
When we can bring a seemingly unresolvable issue to therapy and allow ourselves to acknowledge the pain and our own inabilty to ‘solve the problem’, something else can emerge over time thata can help us.
The experience of sharing our painful experience with another person, who is trying to understand how it is for us, can offer some healing in itself.
Over time, as we develop a closer relationship with the therapist we may begin to discover things about ourself and our relationship to the ‘problem’ we are bringing. Perhaps we will become more self-accepting or begin to discover (and accept) parts of ourselves that we have disowned.
These developments, while not necessarily ‘solving’ the problem we have brought, do enable us to grow as a person and sometimes the ‘problem’ begins to seem less dominating in our life.
As Carl Jung said: “We dont’ so much solve our problems as we outgrow them. We add capacities and experiences that eventually make us bigger than the problems.”
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