Have you ever seen pictures or a video of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly – what a miraculous site, truly a confirmation of the Creator constantly at work. The caterpillar itself starts off as an egg and transforms into the larvae or caterpillar. Then the amazing transformation continues as it develops into the most beautiful butterfly. Another testimony to the spectacular wonders all around us..
People also undergo transformations. As a child, we speak, think and act like a child. As a teenager we speak, think and act like a teenager (whatever that means). As an adult, how do we speak, think and act? Is there a natural transformation, a metamorphosis over time for people in how they think, feel and act? This is a very philosophical question; however, it has great ramifications for our day-to-day functioning. Likewise, it serves as a starting point for how we relate to and treat others.
In fact, how we view ourselves has a direct influence on how we act. Our sense of self, our self-judgment, also referred to as our self-esteem, has major effects on our functioning capacity. Fragile self-esteem, which most of us tend to have, causes the many ebbs and tides of feelings and ability to control our emotions and actions. In a book entitled Psychological Trauma and the Adult Survivor: theory, therapy, and transformation by Lisa McCann and Laurie Anne Pearlman, they discuss how trauma victims often view themselves as if their inner sense of themselves and their world is disrupted. As in most therapies, they describe how the transformation of the sense of self is developed through a new reality that is both adaptive and safe. This is but one understanding of the importance of therapy as a means of counsel and personal growth.
So many of our clients hesitate to seek help. For some it seems to be natural to deny the need for help – for as long as possible. As they say, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” That’s basically trying to convince yourself that if “I think its not broken, its not broken.” To seek help one has to first come to terms with and accept that there is a problem. Such acceptance is in itself anxiety producing and painful. As much energy as denial takes, admitting a problem could take more. How many times do those in psychological pain scream out, “Leave me alone”? Sometimes this is truly a sign of their depression, but other times it’s more a sense of being overwhelmed and in pain.
I often ask my clients, “What’s the difference between spending and investing?” What do you think the answer is? To seek help, to recognize the need for therapy and counselling, one must understand the significance in these two concepts.
Think of this question in terms of money. To spend means that we take the money, give it to someone else for the purpose of acquiring something on a temporary basis. Why temporary? Because everything we acquire is temporary. If we buy food, we eat it and it’s gone. If we buy clothing, we wear it until we are tired of it or it wears out and it’s gone. If we buy a large item like a car, or even a home, it depreciates and that part is gone. When we spend, we know that at the end of the day, it’s gone. However, to invest means that we give money for the purpose of, and in the hope, of walking away with more than when we started. That’s the intent.
Therapy is the same idea. If the client comes to spend time with me, they walk away spending their money and have nothing to show for it. When they leave the therapy room, everything is forgotten. They spent their time and now “on with life.” However, the client who will invest time in therapy will leave with more than they came with. This client thinks over what was realized in therapy, uses new insights and skills from the therapy session and comes back to the next session ready to acquire more than before. The client who benefits most from therapy is the one who can invest in the time they spend with the therapist.
Back to the caterpillar and butterfly… The metamorphosis from the egg to the butterfly came up in a therapy session with a 13-year-old boy last week. You ask how that could be! Well, this boy has been coming to see me for about eight months. Emile is an interesting boy. He lives with his single (divorced) dad. He has suffered much emotional distress and loss in his life. However, at 13 he would rather not be in therapy but playing with his friends; or should I say fighting with his “friends.” Emile has many social and learning problems. He has had great difficulty focusing, be it on schoolwork or socializing or listening to his father. However, over the past eight months their relationship has certainly changed. Emile has had an amazing transformation. I say amazing, because one of Emile’s interesting characteristics is his resistance to change. Actually, he is resistant to looking closely at himself, his sadness and the conflicts in his life. It has been an interesting journey as Emile’s resistance to the therapy sessions has certainly reduced while at the same time he still refuses to deal with emotional issues. He can totally shut down when delicate issues, like his mother, come up. In fact, Emile’s father sits in on each session to “help” keep Emile on track. His father is very dedicated to Emile while, at times, he gets very frustrated with his son. The frustrations extend to wanting to prove his love, to getting Emile to listen to him, to getting Emile to accept responsibility for his actions at home, school and in the community.