So how does therapy work? I guess the simple answer is that therapists want to help you understand what is getting in your way and stopping you from leading the life you want. And often “what is getting in your way” started out in your childhood. Often therapists are going to want to help you uncover the reasons why you behave the way you do. For example, maybe when you were five years old, you ran out of the house because you were trying to explore new things by yourself. And maybe your mother got scared because you ran out without adult supervision and she grabbed you and spanked you for it. That could have taught you something – don’t assert your independence because you might be spanked.
That understanding may have been instilled in you when you were five years old, but perhaps now as an adult it’s not the best advice. Maybe now you find yourself unable to take risks because of a fear you might be “spanked.” While that spanking was long forgotten by your parents, it might stick with you your whole life and stop you from doing the things you want to do.
Therapists want you to understand what happened back then so you can make more adult choices for your life. Sounds simple, right? Well, while it looks good on paper, it’s just half of the battle. Even though therapy can help you understand what happened to help form your mental makeup, it doesn’t automatically change anything. Yes, new insights can be very valuable and pave the way toward meaningful change, but the issues don’t automatically go away.
Once they’re discovered, the next step is figuring out how to create new realities that are no longer holding you back. For example, maybe the next time you feel you deserve a raise at work and your emotions tell you, “I’d better not risk it,” you override those feelings and talk to your boss anyway. What would life look like if you could take action that could potentially benefit your life without the paralyzing feeling that you’re going to be “spanked” if you do so?
That’s why therapy is not as simple as just discovering a problem and having it disappear immediately. It can take time before the positive changes we know that we want to make in our lives actually feel natural to us. Therapy can give us valuable tools to make these changes, but they require practice and effort to truly internalize them.