“Life is not a problem to be solved, it is a mystery to be experienced.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
What is the real goal of therapy? People often seek a therapist during moments of sadness, emptiness, fear, confusion and/or frustration. There may be a desperation to “fix” the uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and behaviors so that one will feel comfortable again as soon as possible. While therapy certainly aims to alleviate pain and suffering, it also provides an opportunity to explore life in the “in between” or during the more uncertain, gray areas of existence. We live in a time where discomfort is not easily tolerated and quick remedies to undesirable feelings are readily available. The real goal of therapy may be less about eliminating negative states and more about experiencing those negative states without being too quick to dismiss them or, conversely, being hijacked by them.
The paradoxical theory of change supposes that personal growth occurs when one becomes more aware of his/her authentic self as opposed to attempting to transform into someone different. The goal from this perspective is to find more empowerment through knowing oneself and developing awareness around both the positive and negative aspects of oneself. This includes feelings of joy, passion, happiness, excitement as well as sorrow, boredom, fear, confusion and frustration. Hopefully, as we become more aware and live more authentically, we are able to utilize that empowerment to move through negative states and allow life to unfold naturally.
If life is not a problem to be solved, at some point, we need to admit therapy has served its purpose and realize it is time to go out into the world and, as Carolyn Myss argued, “get on with the business of living”. There is never a true end point where all of one’s issues are resolved and all negative emotions disappear. Caroline Myss explained in The Anatomy of the Spirit, “At present, we define healed as the opposite of needy. Therefore, to be healed means to be fully self-contained, always positive, always happy, always sure of oneself, and never needing anyone. No wonder few ever consider themselves healed.”