I have been thinking about how hard it is to be in therapy; to open oneself to another, to a person who is not a friend or a family member, who is, in fact, paid to listen. I thought about different ways in which this can be scary, uncomfortable and, for some people, the last thing they are prepared to do. Then I thought: What else could they do for themselves? What would they be prepared to do for themselves?
Therapy is not just talking to a trained someone about what we think and feel for one hour a week. It is a concept of looking after ourselves, continuously. Just like we don't only do phisical exercise when we are unfit, but we do it so that we are fit, it is the same with therapy: there are so many "exercises" that we can do for ourselves, for our "fitness" within. In fact, there is very little that we can do for our own enjoyment, learning or development that is not therapeutic. Just think about things that are fun, or calming, or comfortable - or if you are feeling brave today, think about what is uncomfortable.
There will be days when I can only do my safe phisical exercise routine that doesn't hurt and ticks the box. And it does that, it ticks the box, it is enough. There will be odd days when I want to work harder, when I know I can and I feel great about it. Those days I will punch my punch-bag harder or faster, or dance a one-off choreography to my favourite workout music, all with a smile on my face and a feeling of strength. Thinking about some of my therapeutic activities, I recognise the same pattern in baking or cooking, gardening, art and walking. There are my standard, tick-the-box recipes that feel satisfying to make because they are tried and tested. And there are meals that I will make once, with passion and attention, ingredients flowing without being measured, and I will not remember how to make them again. What I will remember are the feelings of courage, creativity and growth that accompanied this dish, and fed my soul.
There are routes that I regularly use for walking. Their familiarity comforts me and offers me a space to wander inside my head, or listen to the lyrics of my music more carefully because my feet know where to go. But some days, I will take a different turn - it is interesting that this can happen because I choose to, but also because of roadworks or other reasons outside of me. The moment this happens, my alertness is hightened, my senses are taking in the surroundings and I am aware of it.
Being in therapy is everything we are prepared to do for ourselves - one day this is to self-soothe and offer to self the feeling of safety through familiarity, another day we put ourselves outside of our comfort zone to learn, to grow, to experience the life with alertness, deliberately and aware. Talking to a counsellor/therapist is just one of the ways we can do one or the other.