Within the Journey
It’s not uncommon for a patient to initiate a therapeutic relationship with a broad, and practical, goal: I want to feel better, or the flipside—I want to eliminate my suffering.
This is a natural desire. Yet, this desire may have the unintended consequence of fostering an expectation that simply engaging in therapy will make a person begin to feel better quite quickly. It’s no wonder then, if healing takes a bit longer than anticipated, that the therapeutic process may actually yield frustration.
I get it. I do the same thing. I go to the doctor when I am sick, and I expect to receive a prescription that will eliminate the infection. I go to the gym and use the treadmill, and I expect to quicken my pace on long runs. The examples are endless. Our lives are seemingly built on a construct of cause and effect, and, more than this, instant gratification.
This inclination naturally, and understandably, feeds into the therapeutic relationship. If the goal is to eliminate our anxiety, then a therapist should simply supply a list of five things to do each day, or a book to read that will surely contain the piece of wisdom inside that will transform us.
We want answers. We want understanding. We want certainty. We want control.
But what if the therapeutic setting could be a bit different than this? What if, rather than entering the room as consumers seeking a quick fix, we enter open to a different process, and thus, a different expectation as to what we will receive? What if we take the time to trudge through all of the stuff buried deep inside of us, and by sitting with those thoughts for as long as it takes, we find, each week, that we’re able to get through it? What if we can begin to find peace within the great mysteries surrounding us—that we simply don’t have the answers to many of the questions we ask—and instead of despair, we come to find wonder, discovery, and joy in the process of unknowing? Just to think of all the possibilities…
Perhaps it’s within those questions, within the journey itself, where we start to feel a bit better than we did before we came to therapy. Maybe embracing the uncertainty and ambiguity of life becomes a stabilizing force in our lives. This force, over time, may even become bigger than the anxiety with which we began.
Maybe it doesn’t look exactly like we thought it did. Maybe it’s better.