I had my second therapy session today with the same therapist. Prior to her I’ve gone for two other sessions with two others, but something didn’t feel right. I wondered if I was too picky, expected too much, or if my idea of therapy was misaligned with reality. I had to google “how do you know if you have found the right therapist” and it turns out I wasn’t expecting too much to want my therapist to have a sense of humour or have some chemistry with me.
I think everyone has different needs and maybe for someone else these factors are not important, but being in therapy is an intimate relationship because you want to be comfortable telling your deepest darkest feelings. If they make you uncomfortable or judged or somehow something is breaking down in the lines of communication (i.e the therapist seems to be listening but her body language seems to show otherwise), it doesn’t matter if it’s your imagination or you are projecting, as long as you don’t feel safe to talk openly, I think it wouldn’t work.
I used to think I didn’t need therapy, because I had this misconception that therapy is for people who have difficulty accessing or acknowledging their innermost feelings. I write them out and publish them publicly, why would I need a therapist? Maybe the word “therapy” also has negative connotations, but in my last post I mentioned that some eminent psychotherapists believe that the therapeutic relationship is essential to becoming. Because without having a good mirror to our own behavior, can we really have a holistic awareness to our selves?
That said, it was also because I wasn’t aware of the healing/enriching qualities of having a relationship with someone who’s able to listen to us fully without judging, trivialising, or fixing. How often do we have that in reality? How often do people try to tell us we should feel a different way or we shouldn’t be having certain feelings? Maybe you would think, that’s what close friends or family can do, to support us unconditionally. But close friends and family come with their own worldviews and biases, sometimes even more so because they think they know you intimately, so without even properly listening and understanding they are already assuming they know what you’re actually trying to express. We need someone who doesn’t have an investment in the outcome of the dialogue. Imagine trying to tell your loved ones you wake up everyday feeling like you want to end your life or that you want to quit your job when their quality of life depends on you not quitting? On top of that, people carry their own baggage so they will try to understand us from that vantage point without giving enough consideration that we are different people with different needs and aspirations (I make the very same mistake myself when I share my opinion with my friends who come to me with their issues so now I give big fat caveats).
A few years ago by serendipity I met someone who listened so deeply to me that it changed me in ways so profound that I don’t even know how to describe the experience in words. Reading Carl Rogers helped me articulate that experience in a concrete sense — the power of listening. When I met my current therapist I was reminded of that experience, the experience of someone being there with me, acknowledging me, creating space for me to be me.
Sometimes we don’t actually want someone to make us better. Sometimes we just need someone to truly listen and try to understand. Sometimes we just need a space to hurt, for as long as we need, without advice telling us to exercise more or think more positively or go for vipassanas. The decision to heal or become has to be on our terms and timeline. Having someone who is capable of honoring and facilitating that can be powerfully transformative and life-affirming.