What I’ve Learned in Therapy: The Complete List
Someone once posed the question on the forum, what are the most important things you’ve learned in therapy? I’ve actually written expanded posts on some of my answers, but thought it might be useful to post my whole list here. I’ve put links a the end for the previous expanded posts.
The most difficult thing to explain about healing in therapy is that it isn’t about “knowing” it’s about experiencing being with another person. So much of what I talk about below totally gonzo confused me when I first learned it. I used to tell BN that he was talking in Russian. But staying with my feelings and continuing to express them through the confusion is how I learned it. And I must give credit again to BN, who is really an incredibly gifted, compassionate man doing exactly what he should be. So much of my “wisdom” is actually my ability to accurately quote him. 🙂
So the full list is below. If there’s a particular item in the list you would want me to expand upon, please feel free to leave a note in the comments.
What I Have Learned in Therapy
Healing is possible.
Healing happens so slowly that it is only in looking back over long distances can we see how far we have come.
I don’t need to be scared of my feelings or overwhelmed by them. I learned this by watching BN not be overwhelmed by them.
My feelings aren’t always a good indicator of reality. I needed to learn to put some room between my feelings and myself so I could perceive what was really going on instead of what I believed was going on. My old template was pretty faulty. Reasonable when it was formed, but faulty in the long-term.
Seek first to understand than to be understood.
It’s ok for it to be about your needs.
It’s ok to make it about someone else’s needs as long as it’s a choice not an imperative.
There is more than one interpretation for a set of facts. Sometimes you have to ask.
You have to stop protecting yourself to experience being protected.
It’s human to be vulnerable and long for love, connection, protection and safety. Love, connection, protection and safety are our birthright which we deserve, but sadly, so often don’t get. But there’s nothing wrong, and so much right, with longing for them.
All of me is acceptable, some of it’s not so pretty, some of it I don’t like, but it’s all human.
I wasn’t responsible for the abuse and I didn’t deserve any of it.
There was nothing inherently wrong with me, I just didn’t get what I needed and endured things I shouldn’t have had to.
Healing is not reaching a place of perfect peace and safety. It’s knowing that you can remain safe and be at peace no matter what you run into. That you’ll come out the other side and still be ok.
A surprisingly large part of dealing with the difficulties of life is knowing you can.
Reaching out to another person when you need help is a sign of strength not a weakness.
You need to feel safe enough to be scared.
It gets a LOT harder before it gets better.
Anger and violence are two different things.
Anger is just another emotion.
We can only know ourselves in relationship. If the relationship isn’t a good one, we learn to believe lies about yourselves. If it’s a good one, we can learn to love ourselves. BN is a good mirror.
The only way to heal some of the losses is to mourn them. I can endure the losses which can’t be corrected and I can get what I need to go on.
Expressing something you want that you can’t have and being understood, far from being futile, is incredibly healing.
There is nothing wrong with having needs.
Hearing a no doesn’t mean you did something wrong.
Other people’s boundaries are just that, theirs, and say more about them than they do about me.
I need to be as patient, accepting and gentle of my own shortcomings as of other people’s. I need to be patient, accepting and gentle of other people’s shortcomings. 🙂
There is a far side to despair.
Grief is not endless, it just feels like it.
Grief is despair with hope. That’s why it heals.
Being alone wasn’t the best I could do or the best I could hope for. I am capable of intimacy. Being known doesn’t mean being left.
That mistakes are just that, mistakes, and can be learned from.
I don’t need to know what’s over the next hill before going over it. I can trust in my ability to handle whatever it is. That’s actually part of the adventure.
Pain isn’t part of love, pain is a part of life and love is the answer to pain.
All human beings must be dependent on another human being to learn to be independent; you’re supposed to do it when you’re a child but can do it as an adult.
Therapy is NOT for wusses; its messy, scary, chaotic, confusing, difficult and not for the faint of heart.
For reasons beyond my understanding, having someone witness your pain and stay with you through it is incredibly powerful and healing. Going through your own pain teaches you to stay with others through their pain. This makes it worth going through.
We never stop needing other people.
We’re not supposed to be worried about, or even be aware of the attachment bond. It should be the background which allows us to do what we need to. The point isn’t in saying goodbye, it’s in getting what we need, to do what we need to do.
Loving someone shouldn’t be scary.
Connection doesn’t end because of separation.
Telling someone how you feel is not the same as telling them what you want them to do (or demanding they do something about your feeling).
Feelings are, more often than not, irrational. Just because they don’t make sense, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be expressed.
Therapeutic boundaries are the most frustrating, painful, and crazy making things in the world; they are also utterly necessary to the work.
We are all capable of flight.
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