With each encounter, human beings carry the background question, “Is this a person who wants to know me?” Meeting, communicating, connecting, and finding commonalities are all points of contact where a relationship is defined. Is this a relationship where it is safe to be real? Is this a relationship where we can talk about difficult topics? Is this a relationship where unwanted feelings can be shared? The motive to be truly known is a fundamental part of being human. Even before a motive to be accepted, there is a motive to be understood.
Understanding is not a simple endeavor. It takes time. First there is the time to establish what kind of relationship we are creating. This cannot be rushed. Then there is the time to establish trust between two people. It is impossible to develop understanding without trust. And trust is not based on cognition, not on promises, not on agreements. Deep trust is based on experience. And particularly experience over time.
The very first level of trust is trust in our own mind to have within it the capacity to heal itself, to continue to develop, learn, and grow. Without some hope of creating this kind of trust, a person would not be able to consider therapy in the first place. You have to believe it could make a difference. But even with a modest beginning of self-trust, there is a starting place, a clearing in the forest of thoughts and feelings that can be expanded and nurtured. And then, with that small step of willingness to trust ourselves, we can make another tentative step into a relationship with a therapist.