This is what I used to wonder, when I contemplated seeking therapy in my 20s. What could a therapist tell me that I didn’t already know about myself?
I spent a LOT of time journaling as a kid, observing, contemplating, feeling, processing. I figured I didn’t need (and couldn’t afford) to pay someone to listen to me talk.
Fast forward, many therapy hours (my own, and in practice with clients) and years later to this morning, as I’m FINALLY nearing the end of a 4-5 month journey reading Gordon Wheeler’s Beyond Individualism. This book was recommended to me by the head of the Pacific Gestalt Institute, Lynne Jacobs, after I took an intro to Gestalt course sometime during graduate school. I was skeptical about Gestalt back then, having only watched Fritz Perls in the [in]famous Gloria tapes. Fritz made Gestalt look awkward, uncomfortable, irritating. Which, it can be, because people, and moments, and relating can be awkward, uncomfortable, and irritating.
This morning I was reading on intimacy. (Talk about awkward, uncomfortable and at times, yes irritating). As Wheeler described it, intimacy is, “the exploration of subjectivity…our inherent longing and seeking for resonance and response to our inner experience.” Being close to others seems lovely, yet it can also feel conflicting and treacherous. Wheeler poses – in therapy the most helpful thing is when therapist and client meet and it’s the “contrast of expectations and feelings about a particular incident or theme between the therapist and client” where conditions arise for there to be “an articulation of new self-experience for the client.” Put simply, people bring things out of us that we might not ever experience were it not for relationship, interaction, and most importantly, curiosity. Wheeler called it, “conducting exploration.” I can get behind that – therapists as explorers, making “useful, richer, interconnections among clients’ feeling, values, thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, interpretations and the outer world.”
Maybe when people ask me what I do now, that’s what I’ll say. I’m a conductor.* Let’s go exploring. And I CAN’T tell you anything about yourself that you don’t already know, but I’ll go with you to any depth to discover what’s waiting still to surface.
*As in (to my physics-curious mind) a material or device that conducts or transmits heat, electricity, or sound, especially when regarded in terms of its capacity to do this.