Living the examined life is very hard, sometimes. I sometimes wish I never switched on to my self-awareness, and began my journey in psychotherapy. Sure I was miserable throughout my twenties, and sometimes still am miserable, but isn’t it a case of better the devil you know? Do I really need to look at my memories, my childhood, my behaviours and thoughts? Can’t I just be for a while? I hate knowing better or that I’m letting myself down in some way!
When I start thinking like this, I (now) know there is something else going on for me. I am tired, physically and mentally, and usually, I am trying to ignore something in my life that I am unhappy about. Would I really go back to my pre-therapy days? Hell no. Because I was already living the examined life before I found counselling, I just did not have an outlet for it. My mind was going crazy bearing the weight of pain and hurt, and I knew better for myself, I just didn’t know how to express any of this. I could barely name how I was feeling with my first therapist, and I never let her see me cry. How things change.
I am now in my sixth week of client work, as a trainee therapist, and I am loving it, despite the confusion, the fears, and the personal stuff that gets dredged up through the process. It is incredible sitting with someone and having the privilege of their time and their trust. I’ve already learnt so much about the daily acts of courage that people engage in, and their immense resourcefulness in the tribulations they face. I am so thankful for their commitment each week, and for their willingness to examine their own life, with me as a support and sometimes guide. I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn alongside them too. It’s such a rare connection that we get in this life.
All psychotherapists will tell you that the real learning is when you begin your client work, and it’s completely true. It’s encouraged me to ask myself so many questions that will not only impact on my client work, but also on myself as a person. Can I really sit with another person in empathy and compassion, if I cannot show myself the same? Can I be brave enough to be congruent and take risks both inside and outside of the therapy room? Why do I listen and trust my gut instincts with clients, and completely ignore them in my personal life?
Psychotherapists also tell you that you get the clients you need, not the ones you hope for. Again, so far, so true. And so far, my clients have reminded me (through their own stories and experiences) that we are all deserving of love, regardless of who we are or what we have done in our lives. That self-worth cannot be given to you, it is something you grow and hold on to for yourself. That we are never alone in our thinking or feelings. That vulnerability is a sign of strength, not a weakness. That sharing yourself with someone is a gift and not a burden. That it’s ok to be afraid, and it’s ok to feel great, and that it’s ok to have every other feeling in between. That we are simply enough, as we are right there. And that if we don’t like part of ourselves, we can either accept it or change it. That we all feel lonely at times. That life is both tough and unfair, but beautiful and special at the same time. That we all expect too much of ourselves sometimes, and that we are all important to someone, somewhere.
Living the examined life is very hard, sometimes, but it is always worth it. It is worth those rare, delightful moments where you have a breakthrough, and suddenly the light makes everything so clear, and things just fall into place (even if they don’t remain in place!). It is worth the connection that it creates, both inside and outside the therapy room, with friends, family, classmates, clients, therapists, supervisors, coworkers, strangers and fellow bloggers.