Alas, no one has the time to pause and fathom the subtle things
Although psychotherapy has become a more recent addition to our collective awareness, today, it’s a concept that most people have a fundamental understanding of – its essence and objectives. It’s uplifting to note that seeking support for one’s mental well-being no longer carries the stigma it once did; instead, there’s a growing awareness and interest in mental health. Nevertheless, this level of awareness still falls short of what mental health professionals aspire to achieve and what society needs. Therefore, inquiries about the nature of psychotherapy, its potential outcomes, and the situations in which it can be advantageous remain to be relevant.
Much like we heed a toothache as a signal to see a dentist, our bodies and minds send us messages when something is amiss in our lives. These messages may appear as irregular sleep patterns, changes in appetite, mood fluctuations, and intrusive thoughts. While some may promptly seek help, others may endure emotional pain until it becomes unbearable. A similar situation applies to our emotional struggles. While everyone’s reasons for seeking therapy and their expectations from it may be unique, the fundamental goal is alike: alleviating emotional distress.
Unlike the straightforwardness of addressing dental pain, comprehending the roots of emotional distress involves a highly intricate and multifaceted process. In the voyage of self-discovery, each individual grapples with distinct possibilities and limitations. Additionally, the personal and environmental resources, including coping strategies, conflicts, and challenges, exhibit diverse forms and intensities. Everyone develops their personalized approaches to troubleshoot the issues they encounter, leveraging the resources available to them. While these strategies may serve to alleviate immediate concerns, they can, at times, exact costs in other areas and ultimately lead the individual to confront novel and intricate conflicts. This is precisely where psychotherapy steps in: when a person’s coping mechanisms lose their efficacy, and the dynamics of their environment cease to be as effective, perhaps even becoming burdensome, or when they confront novel, challenging circumstances for which they lack prior experience.
Even if someone embarks on this journey seeking a solution for insomnia, the core desire of an individual seeking psychotherapy is to feel understood and to find meaning in their life. Much like an author revisiting and revising certain sentences, adding and replacing words in the story, we, too, occasionally revisit elements of our lives, past events and relationships, in an attempt to find meaning in our experiences. In this regard, psychotherapy can be described as a process where an individual revises their own narrative in the presence of a stranger. In my view, the primary role of the mentioned stranger, the therapist, in this process is to listen to the story. Subsequently, the therapist reflects what they have heard back to the storyteller. This allows the rewritten and forthcoming narrative to meet the individual’s needs and expectations, transforming it into a story they are not only content to narrate but also live.
If I were to encapsulate psychotherapy in a single sentence, I would borrow a verse from Turkish poet Gülten Akın and describe it as a place ‘to pause and fathom the subtle things’.