A few months ago a friend was relating their experience of their first session with a therapist. While they didn’t have an obvious need to talk to someone, they didn’t have a reason not to and given that the cost of the first few visits was covered through their benefits they figured they should go.
They found the session enjoyable. The therapist was easy to talk to, they created an open environment conducive to full disclosure and they helped guide a lot of self discovery.
There were two questions the therapist asked that stood out to me:
- What did you go without because there was no suffering in an experience?
- What was it like to have things go bad around you without warning?
These questions are not very specific – they apply to anyone who has experienced change or trauma – and they are reflective and introspective. There’s a lot of self-awareness waiting for anyone who is willing to spend the time reflecting on these questions.
I believe that human beings need a compelling reason to change otherwise they’ll just stay as they are. Suffering, or at least the avoidance of it, is then a good motivator for change. There are people who are able to parse the lessons out of a benign experience but doing so requires experience, wisdom and / or effort. If a change causes no suffering there’s a good chance less will be gleamed from having had it.
From my experience, being blindsided sucks. In the short term it’s painful and long term it sets in motion thought patterns or ways of thinking that can best be described as superstitious; in that they are based on a single mostly random event and not the gestalt of all your experiences. For example, for a very long time I was overly paranoid about the death of those I cared about. This came from Natalie’s sudden death and not because most of the people I have ever known have died.
The answers to these questions are revealing and worth offline consideration. There are lessons in everything, although we may not be in a state to accept or see them. Easy experiences often leave us closed off to them. These consequences to these lessons can become evident in the weeks, months and years following as behavioral patterns that are not functional.