Like any new activity, engaging in psychotherapy to become intimate with ourselves takes practice. It is a two person activity. It is not something a therapist does. Not therapeutic skills. Each time we experience a new part of ourselves, we make a new decision whether we can tolerate knowing about it. There is always a moment of hesitation and choice. And that is the moment of courage. Sometimes we can gather the strength and momentum to go forward and sometimes we have to pause and build it.
There will be missteps. The therapist will miss things or be off base. We will back up or avoid things. We will feel misunderstood. The therapist will have opinions and biases. This joint activity, like any duet, will give us more knowledge, more information. How do we handle being with another person. Do they have to be perfect? Do we?
The relationship is important but it is important because of what it does not what it is. It allows us access to ourselves as active agents. What do we do about fear? What do we do about the imperfections of another person? Can we remain engaged even when there are those missteps?
However idiosyncratic each person is, a relationship reflects the patterns of interacting that each person has learned. Which part is me? Which part is them? One way we learn is by noticing what is the same as in other relationships and what is different. If each relationship I have ends in disconnect and isolation, it cannot always be the other person’s fault. Can I tolerate seeing what part is my own perspective and action, regardless of my felt intention?
How can we get a more accurate understanding the reality of our lives without being misled by our own distortions? The only way to get a view from the outside is through the reactions and reflections of another person. Of course that person has his or her own distortions. Ideally, what the therapist’s training brings is the capacity to reflectively consider possible realities without an agenda and practice in being present in the service of another person’s personal development. And most importantly, for both people in a relationship, the capacity to stick with it and care about what happens.