“There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anaïs Nin
Therapy has been a part of my life for many, many years. It is what led me to this profession and it has helped me tremendously in my own personal growth. I spent years studying, practicing, and honing the skills required to do the work of therapy. I trained for thousands of hours and learned from mentors and colleagues about how to conduct good therapy utilizing mutual respect, empathy, and compassion. I read books, listened to lectures, took copious notes, and passed exams.
The most valuable lesson I learned through all of it was this: Therapy requires risk.
The risk of vulnerability
The risk of truth and honesty
The risk of connection
People often come to therapy because they want something to change – a feeling, a relationship, or themselves. In order for change to occur, there has to be a choice. Choose to stay where you are or choose to open up and sort through the pain, sadness, anger – whatever is keeping you from growing and moving forward in your life and relationships.
It’s not an easy choice. In fact, it’s HARD. Choosing to open up is vulnerable. It requires honesty and courage. And doing this in therapy requires that you be vulnerable about all your “stuff” with another person. It requires connection, which can be both scary and liberating.
But what's the alternative? More risk.
Staying stuck in fear
Living an inauthentic life
Moving through the world disconnected and numb
One of my professors in graduate school used to say, “Every decision involves loss.” Nothing could be more true of making the decision to start therapy.
You lose something when you start therapy – you have to drop what you were using to protect and shield yourself for so long. When you choose to be vulnerable you lose some of this self-protection. It threatens whatever sense of security you have (however false it may be). And you can’t protect yourself as easily when you are sitting across from someone you have asked to help you. You can try, and you might try really hard even once you’ve started therapy.
So what is there to gain? What does the risk of blossoming afford you?
Parts of yourself that were hidden are now out in the open, new light illuminating the shadows of your self. It can be a painful adjustment. Part of you may want to curl back up into the bud.
But hold fast and take heart. There is hope.
The beauty that comes from the process of blossoming is something you won’t want to run away from once you feel it. Once you sense the freedom and liberation that comes when you allow yourself to see yourself as you are in all of the beauty and pain and struggle of being human, you start to realize you are stronger than you thought. You grow. You blossom.
You look back on the bud you once were, the pain you endured when you thought you were protecting yourself from it. You understand how the risk to remain there - covered up and hurting - is truly greater than the risk of opening up, growing, being vulnerable, and seeing yourself and others in a new way.
The verb "to blossom" means to mature or develop in a promising or healthy way.
To blossom is to open up to vulnerability, to expose yourself to deep pain and sadness and fear, and experience beautiful authenticity. It is the best risk you will ever take.
The other valuable lesson I've learned: Therapy is a place to blossom.
Be Well | Mackenzie