If you’ve never tried therapy before, you may wonder what pearls of wisdom therapists share with their clients. Although the foundation of therapy (and where the healing really occurs) is in the relationship between therapist and client, there have been some helpful pieces of insight along the way that clients have appeared to really benefit from hearing from me. Below is a round-up up of the most common things I’ll say to my psychotherapy clients during sessions:
1 | Pain x Resistance = Suffering
Or as Haruki Murakami beautifully put it "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional." We all know that we cannot prevent painful experiences from happening in life. But we can absolutely decide how we respond to them. When we resist pain (through denial, distraction or numbing) we inadvertently suffer more in the process of avoiding the feelings.
The analogy that I use is that if you are at the doctor’s office receiving a shot and you tense up your entire arm and body to brace yourself for the pain of the shot, you will probably experience suffering. However, if you relaxed your arm as much as you could and accepted the sharp pain that was about to ensue, you may feel pain, but you will suffer much less. The best way to deal with painful events is to lean into the feelings that arise, attempt to accept those feelings as they are and find healthy ways to cope.
2 | The problem is not the problem
Often times, if we’re dealing with anxiety, depression or any other unpleasant condition, it is easy to see that symptom as the “problem.” In somatic psychotherapy, though, we have a different view. As a mind/body therapist, I believe that symptoms are simply the body’s natural way of expressing a deeper wound, and that the symptom is – believe it or not – the body’s mode of attempting to heal itself.
For example with anxiety, the body is trying to rev itself up to escape from perceived danger. When you are depressed, the body is trying to have a “deep rest” often due to the body’s perception that it is over-worked or that its ability to cope has been depleted (in response to grief, for example.)
So what is the deeper problem then? Usually the real issue is dissatisfaction with one’s place in life (whether it be an unfulfilling job, marriage, etc.), poor attachment with a parent as a child (meaning an early caregiver was not available to you in the way you needed,) or unresolved loss(es) or trauma(s). These are the areas that therapy is especially helpful in addressing.
3 | Slow down
I practice counseling in Pasadena, CA – a city in Los Angeles – and most of my clients live a fast-paced lifestyle. They often feel much pressure from themselves, their partners, their families, their bosses and society at large to work harder, make more money, be more successful and do more, in general. Often my job is to help clients feel okay with just “being” and not “doing.”
The deeper work is often exploring the early messaging people received throughout the lifespan about what it means to be a “good person” or a “productive citizen.” Working hard is a virtue and don’t get me wrong, I’ve achieved everything I have in life due to hard work. But there is definitely an imbalance in our current culture toward overachieving and I believe that much of the suffering my clients experience is due to not taking the time they need for self-care.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these 3 quick tips from a therapist. If there’s anything you agree or disagree with, please share your opinion in the comments below. Also, let me know what your favorite tips are (whether you provide them as a therapist or have received them as a client) down below. I’d love to learn from YOU! Thank you and be well.
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This post is meant for educational purposes only and isn’t a substitute for diagnosis, assessment or treatment of mental conditions. If you need professional help, seek it out.
About the author
Hi! I'm Natalie. And my passion is helping ambitious, creative millennials achieve everything they want in life, career and relationships. I provide in-person therapy in Pasadena and online therapy throughout California. Click here to get started.