What I have learned…
What I have learned as a therapist working with clients is astounding. The gratitude and abundance of learning through all the modalities of therapy I have done this year has given me pause. Pause to share the skills, lessons, and reminders I have gotten from daily interactions, listening and “holding space” with the people I have been humbled by in our therapeutic sessions.
Here are 5 lessons I have discovered in therapy from my time working with my clients.
Just starting is courageous.
Yes, the simple act of starting the process of therapy can be overwhelming; the reason you are seeking therapy maybe for pornography addiction, looking for answers to your communication patterns with others, understanding sexuality, betrayal or something as cosmic as the meaning of ones life. By entering into the practice you will be asked to be courageous, transparent, and radically honest with yourself. The reality is therapy can be as easy as you want it and you can make it as challenging as you feel open to, entering into a conversation with your therapist you are doing more than talking you are on the start of a remarkably healing journey.
Every week I enter that courageous path myself by doing my own personal healing through therapy. I never would ask anyone to do something without endorsing the value I see in this courageous opportunity to heal too.
The courage of staring yourself in the mirror is a virtuous ritual and I am profoundly appreciative to bare witness to the process. I have learned a great deal from the bravery my clients have shared as well as my own experience in hearing and sharing our stories.
My Invitation: What would it look like to start being more courageous and honest with yourself?
Beliefs control everything in our lives.
People have beliefs. We all have core beliefs and mistaken beliefs. A core belief is our most deeply held assumptions about the world, others, and ourselves. They are firmly embedded in our thinking and significantly shape our reality and behaviors. Mistaken beliefs can be defined as a subjective, individual viewpoint of yourself that you believe. It may also be a thought that you have as an opinion that you don’t consider changing. For example, I must be perfect, I must never make mistakes, and I am always on time. The key to flushing out a mistaken belief is listen for the always, never, and musts in the description.
What I have learned in our culturally contemptuous times are that we are quick to hold strong on our core beliefs and mistaken beliefs. People that are entering into therapy are willing to “seek understanding”, ask questions and reach out by asking how others have come to live like that, believe that, or think that way. You will be alarmed at what you can learn from “seeking understanding”.
Beliefs are at the core of everything, they affect our behavior, our relationships and our personal mental health. However, rather than drink your social media Kool-Aid or blindly believe what you read from the Internet. I am consistently trying to “seek understanding” about my clients and in turn they are being encourage to dive deeper in the reasoning for their beliefs.
My Invitation: Drop the blind following of social media, and detox from your phone, and “seek understanding” from your life and people around you. Don’t connect rather reach out and reengage with others.
There is no room for judgment.
My clients and I are quickly recognizing there is no room to cast judgment. I think Confucius said, “Don’t through rocks at glass houses”. Or something along those lines… Its more and more remarkable when I have the privilege of being in ceremony or therapy or witnessing a group in ceremony or therapy the abundant clarity of judgment. The harm that judging others or casting stones can have on us all is tragic. In any experience or therapeutic session I rather encourage the question, “How does that affect you?” Or “What about what that person is doing makes you feel that way?”
It’s so easy to throw stones at others. Removing judgment and feeling into yourself may shine light on what you need to heal within you. The modest approach I have learned removing judgment is one of the most transformational reminders I have gained this year.
My Invitation: When you feel called to criticize, judge or even evaluate others. Consider looking at yourself first. And while you’re at it drop the phone and social media. It fuels judgment more than you can believe.
Listen and learn more.
It’s not that I am saying don’t talk, remember, “seek understanding”, I am adding - lean in with empathic listening. I am humbled by the art and consistent proactive practice of learning through listening. The humble practice of clients who do group or individual work with me are amazing at both learning the art of empathic listening and more importantly listening to themselves too. It’s not just the practice of listening to others; it is also the refining ritual of turning the listening deeper within yourself.
Finding time for solitude and contemplation can be one way to listen to yourself. Asking one simple question to a friend or family member and practice active listening. There is never a better way to practice humility than through the art of listening.
My Invitation: Assign yourself some time to listen both to yourself in the form of a solitude practice; be it meditation, a walk in nature or simply laying in bed and doing a body scan. And continue to hone listening to others and start a deeper listening to yourself.
This year I self-published a book called The Psychedelics Integration Handbook, the last two words in the book are be gentle. Every client who spends a long enough time in session with me will start to hear pattern with me, I say at the end of each session - be gentle. I don’t say this frivolously; rather I say this with reverence and intention. It is with the courage and bravery each person who walks into session with me needs to be reminded to be gentle. It may sound simple but what I have learned in the grace of witnessing so many people in session is we are harder on ourselves than anyone else. And you cannot imagine the wounds we all have and yet we continuously turn self-shaming, rage, anger, depression and fear right back on ourselves.
My Invitation: PLEASE, with others and with yourself BE GENTLE…
I often say I am not only a teacher I am also a student. I am humbled by the continued opportunity to be in the presence of my clients; furthermore, grateful for the continuation of supporting my clientele with learning, understanding and healing their story, my story and our collective story together. Thank you for the lessons learned and the gratitude in teaching, listening and guiding you to your authentic wholeness.
Dr. Ryan Westrum, PhD LMFT. Is a licensed individual and couples marriage and family therapist, author of The Psychedelics Integration Handbook, and group facilitator for over the last 15 years. He specializes in sexual addiction, pornography addiction, relationships, individual healing, psychedelic integration and digital detoxing. Please engage by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org or by going to healingsoulsllc.com