by Nathan Chua
If you were a businessperson, you would probably want to go to what is referred to as the bottom line every time you look for results. In my years of seeing people struggle through life’s intricate problems and difficult puzzles, and all the insights I get from the authors and experts whose works I read, I can say that there are three main goals to therapy. Here form what I call the bottom lines of counseling based on my experience:
“We have met the enemy and he is us,” so goes the popular saying. This is probably the most basic of all the bottom lines of counseling. Without this, it will be hard to make any changes as there is no explanation for our actions. When we unravel all the unconscious motivations, then we have a chance to fight our demons. Just like any physical ailment, we need to have a correct diagnosis to treat it.
This is probably the most difficult to explain when words can limit the truth behind this. There is unspeakable joy in the counseling room, each time authenticity unfolds right before our eyes. The tears are there that speak of indescribable joy.
You have probably heard it said that it’s harder to make changes with age. This is because the hurts that we experience in our dealings with people who mean much (or sometimes even the world) to us, put layers of defenses upon our psyches, that keep us sane at such moments. However, problems arise when these threats disappear but our defenses remain.
Authentic living means letting go of our outdated and inappropriate defenses. Through the process of therapy, we become reacquainted with our vulnerabilities, not hiding what we truly feel inside. The true us cries when we are sad, smiles when we are happy, gets mad when we are offended, and trembles when we are fearful.
Many of us have learned that being courageous is about touting guns, and doggedly following what society dictates. You are courageous if you have bullied more people than others, or if you have conformed to society’s rules better than others. In Rollo May’s words, “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity.”
Sadly, our timidity in showing the world who we truly are, often ends with what Henry David Thoreau described in these words, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and die with their song still inside them.”
Forgiving One’s Self
Finally, but maybe more importantly, counseling or psychotherapy wants us to forgive ourselves. Given that all our attempts at the above may fail occasionally, or they may even stay with us for as long as we live, we must learn to say, “Hey, that’s how I am, and have been built. I am working hard to be more self-aware and authentic, and live courageously, but I still fall back to who I had been for so long. And guess what? I still love myself and won’t ever get tired of saying, ‘I forgive myself, and I won’t quit from changing. For like a butterfly, it takes time for something truly beautiful to emerge.’”