~ Albert Camus
Therapy is only as good as the follow through. I have been telling my therapy and coaching clients this for years. The same goes for every fitness plan, diet and whatever else you are choosing to commit to in your life. The easy part is making the decision to start. The difficult part is the follow through when your new way of thinking/being/acting is no longer exciting, you’ve fallen off the wagon or you are outright flailing.As I write this I am bundled up on the top of a North Carolina mountain as the snow falls, creating a pristine and peaceful layer on the land and in my mind. I need this respite. I have been going non-stop for what seems like months on end, finishing Warrior One and seeing more clients than I ever have. Life is abundant and bountiful and sometimes tiring all at once. I wouldn’t trade this life for anything, though. I was born to serve and play and learn and grow along the way and as I sit within 24 hours to Thanksgiving Day, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve others.In my earlier years as a therapist I reserved my practice primarily for girls and women, but as I have grown my skills and perspective I have learned that age, nor gender apply to the universal truths we all face as humans. We all have the opportunity to create adventure, love and passion in our lives equally. My clients currently range from a 9 year-old boy to a 70 year-old boy–and everything in between. The clinical issues I am currently treating are as serious as suicidiality, as complex as families unraveling webs of pain to high functioning goal-oriented business people seeking clarity and vision.From an existential perspective, I have hope for all of them. The number one, absolute ground level element of all therapeutic work is HOPE. They must have hope and so must I. My next goal is to turn that initial, fundamental building block of hope into a sustainable vision and goals to help them achieve. What prevents us from moving forward is the lack of acceptance of these basic human concerns.
One of my favorite professional influences, Irvin Yalom, psychology professor at Stanford and existential therapy pioneer describes four Ultimate Concerns as death, meaninglessness, freedom and isolation. In existential therapy these fundamental concerns are considered “givens”, predictable challenges that all humans will face in life.
Not having grown up with a particular religion or faith, existential philosophers and therapeutic practitioners, like Satre, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, May and Yalom really spoke to me.
As an existential therapist aligned with Yalom’s thinking, I do believe that many psycho-social issues stem from lack of acceptance of these givens. Humans are hard-wired for stress, and instead of looking at ourselves like we are flawed, damaged or mentally ill, we can accept these feelings or anxieties as natural expressions of the human experience.
Many (if not most) of my clients come to me self-diagnosed with anxiety, depression or some combination of the two. As a society we are bombarded with images and messages to avoid any discomfort (there’s a pill for that, a new purse or a pair of shoes for that, plastic surgery)… My therapeutic approach allows for the messy, uncomfortable feelings of life’s experiences in the raw. Sometimes I don’t even hand my clients a tissue. I am okay if they cry and get messy.
Everyone wants freedom; but with freedom comes responsibility (anxiety). We all will face death, our own and others, and must learn how to truly live to the fullest despite the impending end (anxiety). We all wonder what is it all for? What is the meaning and purpose of my life (anxiety), and we ultimately must ride the line between individual isolation, being uniquely our own, and belonging with others throughout our lives (anxiety).
I could go on. I could go on for hours on this topic. Truly rich and enriching is our human experience. The bottom line here is that anxiety and concern are normal occurrences in life. When we release ourselves from the burden of being completely pain and anxiety free, we begin to accept and value our lives just as they are. As we step into the holidays, knowing that every family member, as isolated and neurotic as you may perceive them to be, is who they are and should be accepted just as they are.