“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Proust
"After finally leaving behind the disrespectful men in my life, I end up finding yet another one! How could this have happened, when I tried so hard to pick differently this time?
"I swore I would never be the type of husband who drinks too much and yells at his wife, but here I am! What kind of man am I?"
Have you ever wondered why you seem to get in your own way? How you have every intention to turn left but keep turning right? Do you feel as though there are two people living inside you in constant battle for the steering wheel? Does this leave you feeling guilty, anxious, out of control, and with no trust in your ability to ever do the “right” thing? What conclusions/meanings have you drawn about this battle, and what have you tried to do to fix it?
Most of us struggle with some version of this, sometimes daily, other times it sneaks back up on us after years of dormancy. Most times we handle this clash with relative ease and success, making choices that don’t dramatically change how we see ourselves. Yet, what do we do with the feelings of bewilderment and shame at how we have conducted ourselves? That constant feeling that we have failed, hurt others, and worse, set ourselves up for the very things that we fear the most – rejection? It seems sadomasochistic to know exactly what not to do but to do it anyways. Are we simply broken and hopeless to change?
What if it’s the “why” that is the root cause of the trouble? What if your assessment of the problem is wrong – based on inaccurate, outdated and incomplete information. What if this is the reason for your own personal, perpetual Groundhog Day? What would change if you were you to see your disappointments and struggles through new lenses that would allow you to get yourself where you want to go? Most importantly, would you let yourself get there?
Here is the thing when it comes to Perception–things are not always as they seem.
But if you view your world through different lenses–those with a systemic and evolutionary viewpoint–you would better understand yourself and the meanings underneath your thoughts and actions.
So, what if there were a sensible– a brilliant, even– method to your “madness”, a way of seeing through these new lenses, to understanding your contradictions outside of the obvious one or two choices (i.e., I am just plain bad or I am sick/fragile)?
Let’s think about it this way: Even though we can’t see our immune system doesn’t mean it’s not there, working to defend against harm and maintain health. So too, our psyches work to resolve contradictions and conflict behind the scenes. Our psychological “symptoms” – those uncomfortable, unpleasant thoughts, emotions and behaviors that wreak havoc with our lives can be viewed as attempts to fill in the perceived missing pieces of our emotional health.
And just as our immune system may require the correct tools, knowledge, or intervention to determine and treat a potential threat, our psyches require the correct interpretation and guidance to solve the problems causing emotional turmoil.
Think about how you handle having physical symptoms like a stomachache. You may conclude that you over-ate, but it could be food poisoning, a stomach bug, or dehydration. It would be dangerous to diagnose and make treatment decisions without getting a more complete picture.
And how about your attitude towards your physical symptoms? Would you feel critical or ashamed of yourself for experiencing sensations of hunger or the urge to cough? Aren’t these simply responses to basic unmet human needs? Aren’t they outside of your control to stifle them? Don’t these symptoms get much worse when we ignore them or double down by trying to overcome them?
Maybe you’ve tried psychotherapy in the past, and it didn’t work. Or maybe it helped for a while, but your struggles returned. Maybe focusing so much on the past to improve your stalled life today confused you. Perhaps you were advised to make major life changes that you weren’t sure you wanted or weren’t ready to make. You don’t want to repeat those chapters, yet you realize that you can’t fix what you can’t see without help. You want to get the right kind of help so you can finally move forward.
At these crossroads, it’s essential to appreciate all we are and where we’ve come from – what makes us unique, male, female, old, young, athletic, etc. – and find the correct interpretation of why things are the way they are – good, bad, or otherwise. Just as you’d seek a physician to interpret and treat your physical symptoms, it’s fitting to seek a therapist to interpret and treat your emotional symptoms.
Choosing a therapist may seem daunting, but think about it this way – you are choosing a guide to help you interpret your most complicated thoughts and actions. Your therapist is there to help, so if you’re tired of these symptoms, it’s time to find the cause and start to heal!