Therapy as Practice

Yes I have a therapist; and fortunately so, because therapy has made my life a whole lot better, and made me a whole lot easier to live with.

But therapy is a practice?

What is practice anyway?  It’s a means to mastering some skill.  The skill I work on in therapy is self-awareness, and relating to others.

Therapy is my practice dojo for learning trust, vulnerability, and honesty.  Part of what makes therapy work is that you’re paying this person to keep your secrets, and if they don’t they can lose their license.  This enables you to look into the dark places of your soul, admit to yourself and your therapist they’re there, and begin to understand why.

Everything that walks in the light casts a shadow.  The only way to avoid casting a shadow is to walk in darkness.  Our shadow selves come from trying to find ways to cope with the world.  They are the part of ourselves we’d like to hide from the world, the part we are ashamed of, and the part we want to deny exists.

Embracing the shadow is embracing ourselves; it means accepting who we are.  Deny our shadow and deny our own self-acceptance.  Grace comes from that acceptance, and can lead not only to our own acceptance, but accepting our spouse, our children, our parents, and so on.  It’s a profoundly healing experience.

That’s a hard path to walk alone.  A good therapist can help us find that path to trust, vulnerability, and to honesty; a path that leads into our own darkness; but there is light and wholeness on the other side.

Four Steps toward a Social Practice

How do we describe the nature of an acquaintance?  I use four measures:

1)   propinquity,

2)   breadth and level of interest,

3)   level of trust,

4)   And level of vulnerability.

By propinquity I mean proximity or distance.  We are much more likely to be acquainted with those in close proximity to us than we are with those who are far away.  One way to improve an acquaintance is to shorten the distance between you.

The more interests we share with a person, or the greater our intensity of interest in a shared passion, the more we will be attracted to that person.  The more we cultivate those interests, the more we will have to talk about, and the more interesting will become our conversation.

Our level of trust in an acquaintance is indicative of our expectation of honesty and reliability from the other.  For trust to grow our actions must be consistent with our conversation and commitments.  We want to spend our time with people we trust.

Our level of vulnerability is the extent to which we are willing to reveal those parts of ourselves of which we are ashamed, or those parts which if injured in some way, could do us great harm.  Vulnerability allows us to bring to light those parts of ourselves hidden in darkness.  With a friend vulnerability can be transformative.  But if that vulnerability is betrayed, it can be shattering.  For vulnerability to grow between friends, what is shared in confidence must be treasured in the heart and protected from gossip.

A social practice then should seek to shorten distance between acquaintances, seek and cultivate those who share our interests, build trust, and encourage and protect our mutual vulnerability.