Navigating through a series of dead-end relationships, a client asked this week through her tears, “How long does this take?” She was referring to the “process of therapy.”
Living in our fast paced culture, we are accustomed to quick fixes, instant downloads, immediate access to masses of overwhelming information. We are constantly consuming something – food, drinks, clothing, gasoline, electricity. etc. If we are broken, we want to be fixed. If we are sad, we want to be happy. To our dismay, however, we repeatedly learn that it is not that simple. Growth inevitably takes time. Old patterns are repeated until we allow new insights to replace our past, ineffectual blueprints. New insights cannot be forced or intellectualized, they require a deep surrendering to the unconscious, they necessitate an attitude of patience, presence of mind and daily witnessing of one’s actions.
The gestation period for a full term baby is 38 weeks; that’s almost nine months of waiting. And although we are not able to witness the millions of cells transforming into rudimentary organ systems we somehow accept that something magical is happening within the growing womb. It is the same with therapy. Although we are not able to see the internal transformation day-by-day, if we stay with the process long enough, we suddenly notice a radical shift in our perceptions, in our personalities, in our sense of self and in our relationships. The shift is subtle, akin to watching our children every day and failing to notice any signs of growth, yet suddenly realizing their pants are too small, they have outgrown their shoes, they look like a man not a boy.
It is the same with therapy. The gradual shifts toward setting healthy boundaries, being more self-empowered and assertive, toward better communication and tuning into one’s unconscious life – all cannot be noticed until time passes. Then suddenly, we simply feel different, our perceptions are altered and we have changed.
The client that I am seeing will undergo a series of ups and downs – growing pains – until she comes out the other side, walks through the door of change with renewed insight and wonders how on earth she used to view the world the way that she did. Eventually, if she sticks with it, she will meet a man that matches her wants and needs -and marvel at this chance meeting – later making sense of how her life unfolded and ended up they way it did. It is as if as we grow internally, we look back at our former selves as if viewing a young child, innocent of the wisdom we now house and carry within.
As long as we are patient, growth will occur. Yet if we rush our inner transformations, we risk truncating our true potential and cutting off change. We must continue nurturing and watering our inner selves each day until we witness ourselves truly flourishing and thriving.