In this post, I touch on the difference between “pain” and “suffering.” I answer the questions: Does everyone benefit from counseling? And, What does it mean to ‘get better’?
I get the chills down my arms when a client sits down and says: “I’ve had a breakthrough!” I get even more excited (more goosebumps) when they say that they are proud of themselves for hanging in there; for believing they could find relief and then doing what it took to see that through. They feel embodied gratitude towards themselves.
YOU did it!
Sure, I might have helped them to feel into some new perspectives or shed light as we reflected, but, ultimately, the client leads the way inside, at their own pace. Dr. Grand, creator of Brainspotting, says “only a client’s brain knows how to heal itself.” Therefore, we remain “in the tail of the comet.” We model the process, and then we follow. This empowers a client.
What does it mean to “get better?”
Getting better is a resolution of the issues clients present initially, or a sense of relief from feeling “bound,” “shackled,” “stuck,” or “out of control.” It might mean fewer panic attacks or feeling less compelled to drink or eat too much (or having the ability to intervene and stop the behavior when they feel compelled). Or, maybe they’ve figured out their part in a negative dynamic. Maybe grief doesn’t feel as intense. It might mean that someone has released enough anger so that she can see more clearly, or that a fear that hounded an individual no longer rules his life.
Ultimately, getting better means feeling free and less burdened.
There is no one right way
Many people who come see me are therapists, or they have been doing their deep personal work for many years and are seeking a new angle (Brainspotting). I like to think of people like shining crystals. Each new perspective or technique they try cleans off another facet of their perception. People start a 12-step program, or begin to exercise again or see a nutritionist. Maybe they study a Course in Miracles or some other spiritual perspective. Maybe they’ve read a self-help book or joined a therapy group. Meditation is always helpful – and yoga too! Each of these journeys leads to an even deeper understanding of the self.
This supports success
One thing that works well to facilitate healing and increase joy is reengaging with a hobby or activity that a client may have given up. Maybe they used to dance, sing or paint. Perhaps they rode horses, played an instrument, swam or golfed. I notice that when they bring art, sports or animals back into the mix, they experience more relief.
Does everyone benefit from therapy?
Some moments or years are harder than others, and sometimes it’s meaningful to receive support. If you notice a pattern or habitual behavior, it’s good to get some professional help. Usually people are driven to therapy when they are in enough pain. The stories that they have created in response to pain are creating unnecessary suffering.
You don’t have to be “mentally ill” to seek counseling; but too, we are all on the spectrum at some time in our lives. To say we aren’t is like saying you’ve never had a cold.
The difference between pain and suffering
Pain is pure grief, and suffering is caused by guilt as well as the stories we overlay pain to try and make sense of it. Those stories often prevent a suffering individual from finding relief or allowing an emotion to complete and release. With support, you can learn to encounter pain with less fear and begin to hear the stories that don’t serve you or your recovery. Better yet, with a form of body-centered therapy, you don’t just recognize the stories cognitively, you can feel how they’ve held you back. Instead of asking the mind where to go, by asking the body and letting it lead the process, you access information that may never have come to conscious mind.
Somatic or body-centered therapy not only helps what you know in your mind to become embodied and integrated. It also opens the space for the deeper knowing in the body to be revealed and expressed.
The greatest gift is when a client overcomes
The gratitude I feel to my teachers, mentors, and counselors is immense, and now I get to pass the gift on. There is always more to learn in order to engage more fully with the world and other human beings. My clients teach me to how to stay vulnerable and open-hearted.