One of the most powerful aspects of psychotherapy is the opportunity to reflect on how we make meaning of our experiences, and to bring new wisdom to limiting or inaccurate perspectives.
Over the years, I have articulated several lenses to help clients consider past events and future options from a more expansive view.
(def.) "A seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true." (Oxford) The Buddhist concept of "The Two Truths," the intersection of relative and absolute realities, poses a basic paradox that we grapple with in psychotherapy and in life. These seemingly irreconcilable dilemmas can be more easily accepted when we appreciate the complexity of life and hold a larger frame of reference. A transformative aspect of couples therapy is the practice of creating enough space to include two individuals' seemingly at-odds views and needs.
I work with clients to move beyond binary or limited perceptions of themselves and their options. Reframing the difficulties or the possibilities in terms of a continuum allows softening of tension, expanded sense of self, and increased optimism, as well as the practical benefit of more creative problem-solving.
Vulnerability as Strength
In both individual and couples therapy, I have witnessed how many of us were conditioned to hide our "soft underbellies," the places where we feel uncertain, afraid, tender, hurt, or in need of emotional contact and help. These expressions were potentially seen as weakness, and as risky, rather than as signs of maturity, integrity or basic humanness. In truth, we thrive and feel connected when we sense our own and the other's emotional presence, availability and tenderness. Therapy can help transform these restrictive beliefs and the tendency to hide vulnerability.
Remembering and Forgetting
Sometimes the deepest truth of our goodness, clarity and capacity gets covered over with the "veil" of our early conditioning, as well as the ordinary stressors or extraordinary traumas of life. When we
Re-member TRUTH at the most visceral and core level, our view of self, and of what is possible, opens up. Our tendency may be to make "permanent" this desirable state of grace (power, spaciousness, hope...). This wonderful instinct can help fuel the hard work of relating and healing, yet it can also create internal pressure. Often, ease returns when we bring gentle acceptance to this rhythm of "remembering and forgetting," while simultaneously strengthening the pathway toward the goodness and resource.
This acronym offers an extremely helpful tool for working with the mind when facing strong emotions. Many teachers in the Vipassana tradition offer this simple practice to their students. (I thank dharma teacher, Michelle McDonald, for this tool.)
R=Recognition of your direct experience
A=Awareness of (or Allowing) what is
I=Investigate what is happening inside you with gentleness
N=Non-identification (You are more than this feeling or experience)