Navigating the vast landscape of existence, we are often met with crossroads that provoke us to ponder deeply on matters of identity and purpose. This introspective voyage is far from an act of solipsism; rather, it is fundamentally relational, and undeniably essential. Just as one uses a mirror to observe their physical self, one requires an ‘other’ – a symbolic mirror – to observe the psychological self. Herein lies the allure of therapy, an enterprise for those who find themselves in pursuit of a better understanding of their personal narrative, their anxieties, their desires, and ultimately, themselves.
Therapy, at its core, is a dialogue, not a monologue. It is a negotiation between the story we tell ourselves and the story we yearn to create. This process, too, is much like walking through an intricate maze; the therapist does not provide a map to find the way out but walks alongside, sometimes asking questions, often listening, always engaged in the quest for clarity and comprehension. Much like the innocent inquisitive child, the therapist and client persistently replies with why to every explanation in the hope of finding more intriguing, insightful answers.
Therapy then is not a solution, but as an exploration. As seekers of therapy, we are not merely looking for repreive, but for a key to unlock the cryptic puzzle of ourselves. We yearn to understand, to make sense of the narratives we weave about our experiences, our relationships, our traumas and our joys. We are, essentially, engaging in a conversation with the unknown aspects of ourselves, a dialogue that transcends the superficial and ventures into the profundities of our psyche. This is therapy at its core – an audacious exploration into the labyrinth of self, a dance with the shadows in our personal underworld.
And in this dance with the unknown, there is a certain allure. There is excitement, yes, but also apprehension. The fear of discovering our incongruities, the dread of confronting our demons, the terror of standing face to face with the skeletons hidden in our closet. But this fear too forms a part of the desire to seek out therapy; a sense of courage in facing whatever truth may lie under the surface. As the renowned psychoanalyst Carl Jung puts it:
“He who looks at himself, risks to meet himself. The mirror does not flatter, it shows accurately what is reflected in it, namely that face that we never show the world because we hide it by the persona, the mask of the actor. This is the first test of courage on the inner path, a test, which is enough to frighten most people, because the encounter with oneself belongs to those unpleasant things, one avoids as long as one can project the negative onto the environment.”~ Carl Gustav Jung
While self-discovery is one pathway to the therapeutic encounter, it is often pain that drives us – the awareness that something within us is amiss, a disruptive cadence in the symphony of our psyche. The ‘symptom’ is the language of this disquiet. Anxiety, depression, phobias – these are but the words our inner world uses to communicate its suffering. Therapy, therefore, offers a linguistic space; a room where one can begin to make sense of the polyphony of feelings, fears, and dreams. There is a certain bravery to therapy, a willingness to confront the monsters that lurk in the shadows of our unconscious. Like explorers, we set off on a journey into the unknown, armed only with the hope that we might learn to better navigate our internal landscape. For many, this journey becomes an essential rite of passage, a necessary descent into the underworld of the psyche to reclaim a lost aspect of the self.
The act of seeking therapy is also, in a sense, an act of rebellion. A rebellion against the constricting societal moulds, against the tyrannical ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we internalise, against the oppressive norms that perpetually demand homogeneity. Therapy invites us to embrace our idiosyncrasies, to cherish our eccentricities, to celebrate our differences. It encourages us to construct our own definitions of ‘normal’, to cultivate our own values, to shape our own reality. Therapy, thus, becomes a site of resistance, a final stand where we can defiantly express our authentic selves, untouched by societal expectations.
The seduction of therapy lies in its unresolvable mystery, its undying intrigue. It is not a destination, but a journey. Not a solution, but a quest. Not a corrective measure, but an act of self-discovery. We are not merely seeking a map to navigate our psyche, but we are also learning to be comfortable with the uncharted, the unknown, the uncertain. And in this restless, ceaseless exploration, we find not only therapy, but also the art of living itself. In therapy we also find the promise of liberation. The liberation not from our anxieties or our inhibitions or our past, but from the narrative straitjackets we’ve unconsciously accepted. Therapy does not promise an Edenic state of untroubled existence, but rather a richer, more nuanced understanding of our psychological life, that which allows us the freedom to live more fully, more authentically.
Therapy, therefore, is not a testament to one’s brokenness, but to one’s desire to grow. It is a courageous affirmation of our most profoundly human trait – our capacity to change. A testament to the human spirit’s desire for understanding, healing, and self-actualization, it remains one of the most profound endeavours to which one can commit.
In therapy, we do not seek to ‘fix’ ourselves, as if we were machines out of order. Rather, we engage in an ongoing dialogue with our internal world, acknowledging our complexities, embracing our contradictions, and nurturing our continual becoming. It is, in essence, a commitment to the most profound form of self-care: the care of the soul.
As such, one does not merely ‘go’ to therapy. One embarks.