Sometimes we need to seek that understanding from someone other than a lover, parent, or friend. These figures may be too close to your issues or otherwise unsuitable for receiving confidences and providing nurturance. Psychotherapy provides a safe, confidential, neutral relationship to explore what hurts.
Therapist and client sit together in a quiet space being present to whatever feelings comes up. The noise of the outside world is put on hold for an hour: no ringing phones, text messages, TV, or other distractions. This environment invites opening up the parts of ourselves we keep shut down, secret, or tied up in knots. Tears are likely, but so is laughter and joy. Therapy is not only about pain but also learning to live well with the inevitable difficulties that life holds, and finding the laughter that lives alongside pain.
Psychotherapy gives room for love to be present. In fact, love is an important aspect of all good psychotherapy. In a letter to fellow psychoanalyst Carl Jung, Freud wrote that, “Psychoanalysis is in essence a cure through love” (1906). Ultimately, the therapeutic process will lead to reclaiming the self that became lost, whether through years of living un-authentically, practicing unhealthy behavior, or through emotions such as depression and fear that hold us back from living fully. Another way of putting it is that therapy is about putting life back together again based on a clearer understanding of ourselves.
Reconstructing identity is, as Plato wrote, a kind of remembering of what we’ve forgotten about ourselves; through therapeutic dialogue and listening to our intuition, we remember that self. When we live life that’s not in accordance with who we are, we are doomed to fall hard, cracking the veneer of the perfect life. If, like Humpty-Dumpty, we fall tumbling from perches too lofty (narcissistic) or too unstable (based on fantasy) all the king’s horses and all the king’s men will not be able to put us back together again.
A successful outcome of therapy is to find comfort in your aloneness because we are never truly alone if we know ourselves. The self, or soul, is with us all along, walking beside us. Throughout life we are given glimpses of this companion self.