Individual and Couple Therapy
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35th & N. Cheyenne St

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Greenlake Wellness Group

7900 East Green Lake Drive North, Suite 202

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(253) 304-1411

parke@parkeburgess.com



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« Momentum in Therapy | Main | Living Deep »
Friday
Jul072017

Trusting the Body

Perhaps the most difficult moments in our lives—and certainly in therapy—occur when some strong, bad feeling comes up. It is intensely uncomfortable. We want that feeling to go away. This is not a kind of weakness; it is how we are wired. Our nervous system is designed to avoid such feelings in the first place, and try to “fix” them if they happen.

But sometimes a strong, bad feeling does come up. What then? We might feel the sharp pain of grief when thinking of a loved one who has gone, intense shame remembering a moment of humiliation, or hair-raising anxiety in relation to an upcoming exam or financial requirement. This might happen in the middle of the night, or while we sit on the train, or as we reflect on our life during therapy.

Understandably, we want to run away or at least turn away, change the subject, distract ourselves, or convince ourselves to move on—whatever will make that bad feeling stop. Of course we do; that is human nature.

But there is another way—a way that moves toward healing whatever ails us rather than just trying to make it go away.

We can allow that feeling to be there. Without getting swept up in it, without drowning in it, we allow the feeling to be felt. We say, “Something is there.” That something is not me, it is something that is passing through. A guest in my guesthouse. I am not that. I am over here noticing it, sensing it, being curious about it.

When we can allow that bad feeling to be there in that way two things can happen that otherwise could not. First, we can “have the bad feeling without being had by it” (h/t to my good friend Rick Meyer). This is already a big step toward healing. It reconfigures our relationship to our difficult feelings. Second, once we allow the feeling to be there, without being swallowed up in it or pushing it away, something new can happen.

This is how our organism works. Our organism is a process. This process, allowed to carry forward, forms a kind of pathway through different states. Biologically, this organism (us, our body) persistently tends toward living, healing, and flourishing. But if the pathway of our process gets blocked, then the organism cannot carry itself forward in its own natural way. Trouble develops, sort of like a logjam in a river. The water behind the jam swells; a lake might form in what had been low-lying farmland. Though the lake might be just fine, when our bodily healing processes get blocked, the backup almost always causes trouble, sometimes resulting in conditions like chronic anxiety or depression.

But when we allow the process to flow (like the river), and allow the bad feeling to pass through, then whatever needs to happen next to move toward healing now can happen. We may not know exactly what that next step will be (in fact, we rarely do), but we can be sure that it will occur if it can. Our job is to get out of the way.

This is very hard to do. Sometimes we need help. Therapy is very well suited to this kind of work. With the help of your therapist, you can develop a greater capacity to tolerate painful emotions—to allow them to be there—and to make space for the next part of the process to arise organically. To put it more precisely, the therapeutic relationship can provide a safe space in which to do this difficult and sometimes scary work.

Whether you find therapy helpful in this way or not, I encourage you to turn bravely toward your own emotions and trust your body. It truly wants the best for you—after all, it is you.

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