The Challenge of the Therapeutic Space
A great deal of our lives is spent working through from A to B. We are taught that if we do A then B will follow. Work hard at school and we will achieve the grades. Do well at work and we will get the promotion. Be good to others and we will have fulfilling relationships. In many areas of our lives this can serve us well: we achieve, feel movement and purpose.
In the realm of the emotions, these rules don’t apply and this can cause us difficulty:
• Why don’t my relationships work out? I try hard at being a good parter/ parent/friend.
• I don’t understand why I feel sad and dissatisfied when I have so much more than others.
• My parents did their best. Why do I feel angry with them?
External goals and measures can be very useful in helping us to organise and make decisions, to ease our complicated lives. In our emotional world they take us away from an inner sense of what we need, of what is right for us:
• It feels wrong to want a new relationship at my age.
• I shouldn’t still be grieving after all this time.
• It doesn’t make sense that I have so many conflicting feelings.
When our experience doesn’t fit with what we think is right or expected, we decide that there must be something wrong with us.
The challenge of the therapeutic space is something like this: Can we look behind the ‘something wrong’, behind the shoulds and shouldn’ts, to discover what is actually there? Can we look behind the goals and measures to see the struggles, hopes, suffering, pain and desire that make no conventional sense to us and are also part of who we are?
Through the therapeutic space, counselling and therapy offer an invitation to inquire and a different kind of challenge: To take a look at what is there; to be interested in what we find; to become more acquainted with who we are.
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