Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's a process

I have this poster by the artist Nikki McClure in my office:

Despite its small size, clients comment on it more than any other piece of art in my office. To me, the word "process" has a dual meaning in the context of my office. One, people process or work through stuff in therapy. Two, therapy itself is a process.

The picture shows a process not unlike therapy. Pitting cherries, one cherry at a time. I imagine the hands belong to an old person who is patient and methodical.

It is a reminder to me that the work I do with clients and my own work in therapy is often this way. Big insights and dramatic breakthroughs do sometimes happen, but I find it is the change that comes bit by bit that often sticks.

For a long time, I looked for a cure for a part of my gut that gets tight. When I feel this way, it feels like the world is a scary place, and I would rather crawl back into bed. I have tried yoga, meditation, exercise, therapy, massage, and chiropractic to cure this problem. I imagined that I when I got rid of it, there would be no stopping me. I would be glowing with energy. I would be magnetic. I would accomplish twice what I normally do. 

What I realized was that hoping so hard this feeling would go away often makes it worse. It creates a split in me where one part of me hates another part.

I am learning to be more patient with my body. Now when I feel tight in my gut, I try to breathe with the sensation. I've found it important to breathe with the sensation - letting both my breath and the tightness be present - instead of breathing in an attempt to make it go away. I have also learned to expect ebbs and flows in my energy level. I would like to be high energy all the time, but that isn't how my life actually feels.

It has taken a number of years to learn to be more patient and gentle with myself. I have found that attitudes, especially attitudes about ourselves, change slowly. But it is this kind of change that actually makes a big difference in my life, actually makes me a happier person.

Do you agree? Have you found that change happens slowly or have you had more dramatic shifts that have stuck for you?


  1. No Wonder you're so good at understanding so many things that clients are feeling. A lot of these things you talk about regarding yourself, I bring into your office when I see you. I think you're an amazing therapist, and I feel blessed to have found you.

  2. Well anonymous, I feel very touched and humbled by what you said. Thank you.

  3. Like your way of doing maitri here with your tightness. Also like the one cherry at a time idea about therapy (rather than a grand stroke of breakthrough insight).

  4. Thanks Anon. Hard to remember sometimes that it is one cherry at a time. Or sometimes one cherry and then two cherries back! Kind of want to pass through a portal and be someone else at times. But, one cherry at at time. :)