Let The Light In: The Exploration of the Self in Psychotherapy

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Making the earnest decision to go to therapy is subjective. Often there is a “symptom”, like an eating disorder, anxiety, depression, or a traumatic event, that brings to the forefront of the mind the idea to initiate therapy. There are countless types of therapy to choose from and scores of strong and skilled clinicians who provide therapy. However, no matter the treatment modality or the therapist, the inherent core of therapy is that talking is the cure. Talking in therapy is an illuminating journey aimed at exploring one’s inner landscape to become more rooted in the body and spacious in the mind. It’s like waking up in the morning and starting to pull up the blinds or draw back the curtain and letting the light of the sun come into the room. This process addresses the inarguable truth for everyone that experiences come before words and that the body holds our memories, history, past and recent past, that are coherent in nature. Our unconscious embodies the “symptom” before the emergence of words to the conscious mind to eventually evolving into communication between a patient and a therapist.

Talking in therapy is meant to cultivate the awareness of knowing. A therapist provides attentiveness, the feeling someone is trying to think about us and alerts the patient into being present. We all have a story and when we feel consumed by a story that has not and cannot be told because we haven’t yet discovered our words, the story gets expressed by other means.

A therapist studied in the art of talking as the cure learns your language, how you speak, in large part, by learning what it is like to be you. Sometimes, you may bring in a dream or stories of your week when you acted in ways that you don’t understand.

Talking about these experiences in therapy heals and reveals, and you unearth the words for your experience so that your symptoms narrate your story less often.

Ridding ourselves simply of our symptoms that brought us to therapy only takes us so far. The symptoms lie dormant in our unconscious and rise up to the preconscious repeatedly if the story they are recounting cannot be voiced to another. Talking becomes the cure of our symptoms and sustains our changes over time. We cannot give up on bringing to light our words and speaking our stories therapeutically.

Talking necessitates thinking and knowing. If we stop thinking to stop knowing our pain then nothing will change. We have to make sense of our nightmares, our challenges and our pain.

When we filter our emotions it is because we have learned at an early age to deaden our feelings.

If we dodge our emotional pain we sidestep our need to go to therapy. The result then is an intensifying danger of damaging ourselves because unconscious emotional pain is determined to find a way out. There is a bit of this in all of us. When we feel nothing we lose the only means of knowing what hurts us and why. When we know and feel our emotions then we feel compelled to talk about the experiences that make us feel. When we talk in therapy the hope is that we say what we came to say, needed to say and leave feeling heard and thought about. This process is curative.

Connect With Angela Wurtzel, MA, MFT, CEDS in Santa Barbara, CA

To me, the greatest gift of therapy is that your truest self shines bright as a result of a fierce yet studied examination of the life you have led and the one you are determined to live. Just the other day a patient told me she submitted an article and it was published. She said she felt very proud. I inquired what it was like for her to be vulnerable by submitting her personal story, and she said, with tears in her eyes, “I felt appreciative of our therapy. You had encouraged me to write because you have listened to me when I told you that it was a dream of mine to write a memoir. I felt heard.”

Image Source: Flickr

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