It’s a project. Actually more of a grueling, life altering THESIS.
When you start therapy or healing inner work, it would be helpful to understand the magnitude of what you’re going to have to take on. In readings of therapist’s books, articles, websites and in talking to people who have undergone therapy, there is usually no mention of the breadth and scope of the task to come. Perhaps there is good reason for this as you don’t want to scare people away. Conversely though, it can be helpful with regards to people’s acceptance of what has to be done, and also in preventing frustration when results don’t come fast enough.
When the realization hits that you’re going to need to start looking within or go to therapy, the natural and common expectation is to do the minimum required in the shortest amount of time. A logical goal for most tasks. Many therapy clinics ask that patients give themselves at least 10 sessions in order to see some improvement, with a certain number seeing some positive change.
The reality though, is that it usually takes 5-10+ YEARS before one feels they have a sense of making real progress from the issues that first destabilized them.
That’s very different than going to 10 sessions (10 weeks) of therapy or reading a book and doing the exercises at the end.
Within this 5-10+ year period, daily work must be done, on top of the therapy visits. One famous therapist told all her new clients that she wouldn’t do therapy with them unless they devoted 1 hour per day to the process at minimum. She knew that without that extra work the efforts made in therapy tended to stagnate or have to be repeated.
On top of the daily work, an awareness has to be taken on throughout the day. Bringing consciousness to your thinking, decisions, reactions and feelings is needed to move the whole effort forward. This entire time frame has to be digested and integrated into one’s expectations of the road ahead.
At one point in this decade long process it will probably be necessary, and highly recommended, to see a competent and qualified therapist. Although they are expensive, a good therapist is well worth the money invested. Their role is to create safety and stability for their patients, which allows the process to really open up and progress way beyond what people could do for themselves at home. Therapists, with their years of experience, also act as a guide so that you’re not wandering around, flailing in the dark for years while you suffer more than you need to and waste precious moments of your life.
When looking for a therapist, do your research and make sure you end up with one that you click with. They should make you feel comfortable and safe enough to open up while simultaneously pushing you to places you may not want to go, or making you see things about yourself you’d rather not.
Inner work is a daily task that involve these 3 main areas:
1- Writing/Journaling: It’s something most people hate to do but it’s importance can’t be overstated. Most thoughts and inner psychic feelings are experienced as vague notions, as if in a haze. We can see it and categorize it to some degree, but it’s hard to crystallize and “pin it down” so to speak. Writing allows one to clarify their thoughts and bring these deep feelings and perspectives about oneself to the surface, where they can be dealt with.
2- Dream work: There’s a reason that people have recurring dreams and nightmares and that’s because their unconscious is trying to tell them something. Carl Jung believed that dreams do the work of integrating our conscious and unconscious minds, and the characters in our dreams may be trying to get us to acknowledge a part of ourselves that we are repressing.
That’s why dream work is important. Dreams contain rich information from our unconscious which is incredibly useful, and not easy to get in other ways. The best way to go about dream work, is to have a book, perhaps your journaling book, beside your bed and write down your dreams as soon as you wake up. Then later on in the day or week, you can look back on it and start to try to make sense of how it fits in with all of the work you are doing as a whole, and integrate it.
3- Reading: Just as important as the 2 areas of work above and very complimentary. Inner work is both a growth and LEARNING process and so new information is needed to be absorbed on a regular basis. Broadening your scope of understanding this new “world” is extremely helpful when you’re trying to make sense of what to do next, what something means, how important one aspect of self is to focus upon, or in simply deciding which inner path to explore.
Finding books on the subject that are useful though isn’t easy. After going through many, I’ve narrowed down a few good gems that really stand out and are head and shoulders above most of what’s available out there. These books are easily worth 10 times their price, in terms of what the reader gets out of them. You can see them on the book list page.
Once you discover books that appeal to you, start to read more from the same authors or see what they recommend and go from there.
There are also many helpful articles here on this blog and online. Search them out, read and re-read them. Continual reading provides you with new tools and skills that are necessary to deal with the difficult process within.
Outlook and Attitude
Inner, emotional work is not expedient and is like learning a new language, in that you need to practice everyday for a long period of time to become fluent. You are creating new, neural pathways in your brain and those take time and effort, especially if you want them to be permanent. Unlike learning a new language though, you don’t have a manual or practical guide to take you through the process step-by-step. Inner work is very abstract and difficult to get a handle on, so you have to create the structure of it (through daily writing) on your own, and get help from a competent therapist.
It can all be overwhelming and discouraging. Especially since it’s work you have to do because of someone else – usually one’s parents.
The sooner that this gargantuan process is accepted and the sooner it’s started, the sooner the results (i.e. healing and decrease in suffering) will come. Time will pass anyway, and each year of procrastination equals another year of suffering.
It’s not all drudgery though. It’s a task that has been calling to you for years and when undertaken is both fascinating and engaging. Exploring your unconscious, inner world and seeing your past and present in new ways really is … fun?
There is also a sense of meaning that comes with the undertaking of the task. It affects not only you but everyone around you in ways you can’t see or predict. Many of the great thinkers of our past all agree that changing oneself changes the world, and it’s not just a silly metaphor. Think about how many people you come into contact with and how many you have an impact on. So it’s more than worthwhile and rewarding to go through this, on many different levels.
That … is what to expect when you are about to go within.
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