We know that human beings need relationships to survive, or even to want to survive, yet we feel view our own need for connection as a sign of weakness. So many people who find their way to a therapist see this decision as evidence of some kind of failure instead of as the healthy connection that it is. We still carry a conviction that handling problems on our own makes us a better, more complete person, when mutual support is the basis not only for the success of most people but for their quality of life as well.
Seeing a therapist to sort out one’s life, to create an oasis on the freeway of everyday life, to address sticky challenges, and to build a capacity for intimacy is one way to go after optimal growth as a person. It is true that most people come into therapy because of some pain or intractable problem. They often need to feel completely defeated in handling it on their own to bring themselves to seek help. Once this happens, the healthiest people breathe a sigh of relief and engage in a relationship with the therapist that not only addresses their concern but helps them build an inner sense of themselves, or perhaps reconfirms that innate inner identity.
If life is the last game of the world series, we wake up and realize we want it to be the very best experience it can be. That is when it becomes fun….motivating…interesting. What is possible? There is so much richness around us to bring into our lives: different kinds of work, hobbies, careers, people, friends, places to visit, languages to learn, things to understand or learn about. How can we squeeze the very best out of life?
Yes, psychotherapy is about dealing with inner conflict and obstacles at first, but the payoff is much greater than problem solving. We wake up to the world, and we begin to be ourselves in a unique way. We learn to know ourselves and respect who we are, just as we begin to know other people as they are and respect them as well. Years ago Barbara Streisand sang a song that said, “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” “Needing” a therapist is a sign of health, not disability. Recognizing that our lives can be better, our inner distress can be alleviated, and our quality of experience can be improved is a statement of an inner motivation to value ourselves. That fundamental motivation is the basis of the development of a healthy, mature, relational person.