You already have what you need to be at peace with yourself and the world. But if you experience things such as ongoing relationship challenges, anxiety, or depression, this can sap your enthusiasm, and leave you unhappy with yourself, your partner, or your life.
Although you have the capacity to overcome these difficulties, you may be stuck in patterns that just aren’t working. To break these patterns, you’ll need to recognize and make contact with the parts of yourself that you aren’t currently using. Far from being an exhortation to change who you are, this is an invitation to become more fully yourself.
As our therapy begins — and throughout our collaboration — I want to be sure that I understand as well as I can what it’s like to be in your skin. You’ll tell me what’s happening in your life: the people, places and things; your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. I’ll appreciate what you tell me without any judgement.
As you continue to talk about your life, I’ll get a clearer and stronger sense of what it’s like to be you. I’ll check in often to make sure we both maintain this understanding. By my detailed attention to your experience, you’ll know I’m keeping up.
The thoughts, emotions, and bodily-felt sensations that arise during the telling offer invaluable clues to your underutilized parts. We look for the subtle cues, the quiet clues, the ones that you’ve missed or dismissed.
In addition, sometimes we’ll do active work: In-session exercises of attention or behavior. These exercises will contribute to your awareness of the parts of you you’re not fully utilizing — the parts that you need to move you toward what you want.
At a session’s end, clients regularly tell me how significant and important it has been for them to simply be heard and understood. They’re surprised at how powerful and transformative the active work can be. Through acceptance, support and greatly hightened awareness, they are able to go further, understand their situation better, try new things, and get closer to their ideal life.
In working with couples, all of the above applies. Each partner looks into themselves, to see what’s there and what’s been missed. Your partner will be just as surprised as you are to discover how much more there is to you than either of you knew.
In addition, we slow down and examine the typical interactional patterns that keep you and your partner in cycles of angry conflict and/or distance. How do we change these patterns? Through a process of simultaneously increasing safety and encouraging risk, each of you will directly and bravely share with one another your previously unknown or unspoken parts.
You will also bravely hear one another. By perceiving our partners as they actually are, we deepen our appreciation, respect, and understanding. By sharing and learning new aspects of each other, topics that had been unspeakable — or the occasion for yet another harmful argument — become an opportunity for greater knowledge and a truer intimacy.
Like highly trained athletes or musicians, the two of you can learn to play together like a champion team or expert ensemble. Playing with each other instead of against each other, you’ll come to understand each other for who you are, appreciate each other’s strengths and sensitivites, and respect, support, challenge, nurture, and genuinely care for one another.
Is all of this a lot of work? Yes. Getting into shape together takes energy, focus and commitment. But once you’ve acquired good playing habits, staying in shape isn’t nearly so difficult. And the immense rewards of achieving a satisfying relationship make the effort eminently worthwhile.