Some would say that the process of therapy is about getting help with a critical life situation or problem that you’ve been struggling with on your own for some time.
And yet, I always explain when asked ……. the fundamental purpose of therapy is to help clients see themselves (and their life situation) clearly – accurately – truthfully.
It’s actually quite common for a client to attend only a session or two (yes that quickly!) and have a pivotal, life changing … “Ah ha” moment.
Self-awareness doesn’t only happen ‘in’ therapy, but whenever someone is willing to look at a situation (or their self) with different eyes – or in many cases with severe honesty – and the intention of seeing things from a different (and more accurate) perspective. And yet to admit the truth (particularly when it means revealing a flaw or problematic behavior) to yourself is a difficult thing for many of us.
There are many times in our life where we know exactly what to do, but yet don’t do it.
Being open to seeing a situation, a behaviour, or a way of thinking with honestly, requires that you see it as “it is”. No doubt it’s easier to sugar coat the truth, to make excuses for your own (or another’s) actions, or to tell yourself that “it’s okay” in an effort to deny a gnawing feeling that you have when you know deep down inside that what you’ve just told yourself is “okay”, is truly not.
Recently a client had finished a series of counselling sessions with me. Her actions in the workplace (reprimanding her staff “with aggression”, ‘mothering’ rather than ‘mentoring’, using sarcasm and passive-aggressive behaviours rather than dealing with matters directly and calmly) made her a candidate for receiving therapy as part of the necessary requirements of her conditions of future employment.
At the outset of therapy, it felt as though nothing I was saying was reaching her. Sylvia (not her real name) appeared to be actively defending her behaviours, as well as denying some of the accusations made toward her.
Fast forward a few sessions and I gratefully began to see the results (the payoff) of Sylvia’s struggles to see what I was attempting to show her.
It is when we first take responsibility for SELF and for our ‘own’ actions, that we become “awake”.
To be awake is to be able to see yourself and all of your thoughts, feelings, and actions with clarity and truth.
In a moment of ‘awakening’ we forever change. There is a shift that occurs deep within our psyche that acknowledges what we have done, who we have been, and how we have viewed the world up to this moment. When we awaken we “evolve” – we transform. As our eyes open to seeing ourselves both as we are, and how we have been – it is like turning a page in a book. We see and recall details of the chapter we have just read, but we are now looking forward to the next chapter in front of us. (At any time, we can go back and reread parts of previous chapters – much like how we benefit from reviewing, reflecting on past behaviours, and reminding ourselves of where we have come from). The idea here is that our awakening begins first with awareness – recognition – and acknowledgement.
Enlightenment comes out of your willingness to live in that new found awareness. It is the gift of living “awakened”.
When you look at a situation in order to examine, dissect, and understand it, there is usually an underlying and often overwhelming need to have things be “okay”. Observe your self first. Truly it is only your own actions that you can change so this should be your focus and not the actions of others. Be willing to see your ‘mistakes’, to note where you could have behaved differently, and to imagine what other outcomes (within your own control) would have been more helpful. Be willing to see your imperfections not from a place of harsh judgment but as a way of learning – and of observation as a means towards positive change.
As an adult, we don’t have the same level of input from caregivers, teachers, and positive role models (e.g. older siblings who have done ‘good’ in the world) that can guide us. As adults, we forget that we are not infallible nor have we mastered all of the “right” behaviours.
When you begin to see yourself honestly, you will likely also experience a barrage of distinct emotions. For example, sadness, remorse, disbelief, shame, regret etc for what has transpired, and for what you are willing to take responsibility for (even if just quietly to yourself).
This stage is important since it is in ‘awakening’ to yourself completely that change happens.
As you move into another ‘way of being’ – or as I refer to in my upcoming book: ‘WISDOM’, “a return to your true self” – you cannot help but see the world differently. For example, the exact same behaviours in others in light of your new found clarity (your awakened state) can no longer be overlooked or denied. The world around you may initially not appear so bright or pretty with your ‘new’ eyes. It can (and often does) leave one feeling despondent, depressed, even hopeless… and wondering how much better it really is to see the ‘truth’ (hence the phrase: “ignorance is bliss”).
Seeing clearly at times means big changes for how someone lives their life. It isn’t unusual for a person to change careers, release a relationship, change their lifestyle (e.g. become vegetarian) as a result of their awakening. None of these changes likely occur without careful thought; you realize that you no longer can continue living the same ‘lie’ – the same incongruency that you once did.
And remember, the changes you make from an awakened state even while difficult at times, while always improve the quality of your life (and reveal your natural state of happiness).
So how do you exist in your new non-blissful state of truth?
You actually need to feel uncomfortable, let down, and at times even betrayed (yes indeed…. betrayal is a keen motivator compelling you forward to take care of yourself). For Sylvia, it was returning to the same workplace she had left two months earlier, except that now she saw everything as it was.
In those first two weeks, she experienced other staff resistant to helping her integrate back into the team. She noted colleagues were hesitant to share updated procedures, and a Manager who appeared to be ‘playing’ multiple sides at once, telling her what he thought she would want to hear rather than the ‘whole’ truth.
Seeing everything ‘as it is’ means that you need to observe with a strong resolve of ”detachment”. You can become easily distraught in the ‘half-truths’ or unethical behaviours. Choose instead to focus on being your best, rather than attempting to change everyone around you. Realizing that what she saw all around her was no longer acceptable meant that Sylvia no longer wished to stay on in her job.
Envision the great things that YOU will do with your life. It would be sad to allow all that you now see “cloud” your life by being negatively affected. See the truth but remember – its not your job to ensure that everyone is behaving well. Allow others to be who they are without needing to change them.
Be aware and awake – focusing on what good you will bring to your own life. To be distracted by all the ‘wrongs’ that you now see would take away from what your new clarity has in store for you. Pay attention to your heart’s yearnings….and the signs and messages that you see pointing you in a new direction or challenging you with a welcoming opportunity that you can feel excited about.
The message below is a little strong…but there’s ultimately truth in it… and …it does make you think