Two of the purposes for which clients enter psychotherapy are recovery after a traumatic event has plunged them into an abyss of negative emotions, and the human capacity for misconceptions about others with whom we have associations. These two problems often fog human ability to get and maintain relationships and function well in the world. Learning the following two lessons in psychotherapy can aid anyone in finding their way out of the self-imposed prison many find they have fallen into of self-pity and resentment.
Lesson One: Life Isn’t Easy for Anyone
Clients often enter therapy feeling they have been mistreated by the world, and indeed many have suffered trauma that has forever changed their ability to interact with their environment. The feelings of anger and betrayal can become a noose about these clients’ necks, making them unable to move on in life and thrive. This can be especially true for persons who have endured severe trauma as children. Letting go of the state of mind of being somehow special because of the hardships one has endured is a hard assumption to accept, but is necessary to forming a healthy sense of self. The discernment that life isn’t easy for anyone is an important one for these injured souls to learn so that they can let go of their past traumas and begin to build a better future for themselves.
Through psychotherapy, clients can learn that all humans have problems, and that no one escapes life without trauma of some sort. We all have troubles, trials, and skeletons in our closets, and once clients understand this idea, they can place their problems in the proper perspective. They learn that, although the trauma in their past is part of who they are, it is not their entire identity. This opens a world of possibilities as to who these clients wish to become, and ways in which they can accomplish reaching their dreams.
Lesson Two: We are Hurt by Our Own Expectations
A trained mental health professional listens to a myriad of stories each day told to them by clients who have become involved in relationships in which they feel they have been cheated. Often, clients who enter psychotherapy complain that they have been injured by the actions of others; however, except for childhood abuse, most of the issues brought up in psychotherapy are based on the misunderstanding of the following reality:
We are injured more by our own expectations of others than by their actions.
The knowledge that it is not the other person who injured us but our expectations of who and what they should be is a very painful concept to accept. Humans tend to want to depend on others for their happiness, and intimate associations such as marriages and friendships are perhaps the most misunderstood of all these relationships. When humans project their needs and wishes onto others, we inevitably set ourselves and other people on collision courses for failure. No one can ever meet all the needs of another individual, and accepting the fact that the person we have become close to is not perfect can be a daunting reality that many have a hard time accepting. Modern society has been bombarded by images from movies and television programming which tell us that people in relationships are able to always work out their problems no matter what, and that every situation has a happy ending. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and therapists often find themselves having to combat these myths.
We Can Learn That All People are Flawed
In psychotherapy, a client can learn to grasp the truth that all people are flawed, and that the person we find ourselves closest to is no exception to this rule. Seeing the people we love, without the shaded misperceptions of what we expect them to be, can be heartbreaking. However, to do otherwise is to not acknowledge who they truly are as people and to doom these relationships to failure. No marriage can ever be happy all the time and arguments are inevitable between close friends and colleagues. After accepting this truth, many clients experience a feeling of relief. They realize that they have not failed in finding the perfect relationship, because such a thing never existed.
Therapists can teach us many important lessons. The concepts that life isn’t easy and that people aren’t perfect are only a few, but they can make life infinitely easier for anyone who is brave enough to endure the soul-searching work done in psychotherapy.