Like the mythical bird phoenix that rises again from its own ashes, we have an innate potential to grow from our suffering.
Opting for Counselling: Reaching Out
In moving towards growth, suffering often prompts us to reach out to others. This reaching out for help during difficult times is very innate in us living beings, given our survival instinct. Even animals cry for help to seek aid from its kind when in distress.
People often seek therapy when they feel powerless in face of difficulties they are experiencing in life. Usually one seeks counselling after one has exhausted other alternatives: talking to friends and mentors, seeking practical advice, making lifestyle changes, changing jobs/careers, employing self-help techniques etc.
Often, despite several attempts to take charge of the situation, certain core issues seem to persist/recur. Thus, individuals tend to look at the counselling process as a means to recover and regain a sense of control over their lives and their emotions.
Undergoing Counselling: Digging Deeper
Therapy, however, is also a process of moving towards deep self-awareness. The counselling process, therefore, may be seen not just as a ‘road to recovery’ but also as a ‘path to self-realisation’. People may gain profound insights from the therapeutic process, which tends to change their view of self, others and the world in general.
Self-realisation is a difficult process one needs to make in the journey of growth. Greek philosopher Plato’s Allegory of the Cave shows us how our struggles can actually be a path to growth.
In the Allegory of the Cave, Plato describes how a person who is restrained in a dark cave for his entire life would feel when unchained and let out in the light of the sun for the first time. The initial experience of sun rays would be agonisingly painful and blinding to his unaccustomed eyes, and he would want to draw himself away from it. However, as he grows used to it, he is able to see the world in a new light, both literally and figuratively.
Counselling Outcomes: Coming to Terms with Change
The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. – Carl Rogers
The counselling process can be very similar to the way in which Plato’s story unfolds. People, during therapy, may develop new perspectives, which may be difficult initially to fully accept or understand. One may want to go back and find comfort in the older realities than experience and accept the doubts and uncertainties that are inherent to change.
However, when they persist, people not only develop a fresh outlook to their lives, but also become more resilient in the process. They learn to tolerate and accept their experiences by discovering the sheer strength of their endurance.
In the story, Plato then describes how change in one man’s vision of the world, makes the others re-examine their perspectives. The others who are still chained in the cave become aware of their freedom to choose to view their world differently. It gives them the choice to continue believing in the mirage that they have been experiencing or to begin their own journey of growth by questioning it. He also explains how the freed one feels compassion towards the others who are still chained in the cave despite them viewing him as an outcast.
In therapy too, changes that people make in their own lives, tends to have a ripple effect, and gives others in their lives an opportunity to reflect and confront their own challenges. When an individual starts making changes in his or her life, it may bring awareness to others that they too have the choice to bring change in their lives.
Also, a change made by the individual tends to inspire others to respond differently to it. For example, an individual who finds it difficult to communicate her needs to others, when begins to express them in her relationships is encouraging others to relate to her differently.
Others may feel the need to change the way they communicate with her as a result. They may express to her that ‘You have changed’ or ‘You were not like this before’. During such times, by embracing one’s own previous struggles, we can be more understanding and accepting of others while they go through their own struggle for growth.
The counselling process, therefore, seems like a collective journey towards growth, impacting the lives of the individuals who seek therapy, their intimate relationships and that of the therapist as well.