Most people will come to therapy the first time as long as they have a predetermined end date to it. They pluck a time frame out of thin air, deciding how long it will “take” for them to be happy, less panicked, less angry, more satisfied, and so on.
People base this time frame on a variety of things—a finite amount of money spent, a predetermined date for how long their problem should last, or how long in their mind they “deserve” to work on this. Most leave by their done date, believing their problem should have been “fixed” a long time ago.
I have a lot of compassion for those who leave prematurely—who look for the door before they’ve even entered the room, and can’t ever seem to get their eyes off the door, wanting to “be done.” But it’s still confusing. Here’s how this looks from my seat. A person comes in and tells me how bad things are and how badly they want to change. Most folks can’t see new beginnings yet; they only want to stop the hurting. There’s immediate relief because this is a place of refuge, a place to put down the luggage and stop running. But they open their shirt and reveal the depth of their wounds, the loss of blood because they’ve been so long without aid.
And then, after a little relief, they start canceling appointments. I call on the phone to see why they’ve left and they tell me they’re better. But I hear the hesitancy, the avoidance in their voices. It’s like a child who’s been caught lying or playing dress-up. If only they hide under the covers and pretend, no one will find them. They don’t know they’re only hiding from themselves.
They say they’ll call back, but they never do. And I can’t blame them. Now that they’re “okay,” I’m just a reminder of the fact that, not so long ago, they cried hard and complained bitterly about the severity of their problem. Sometimes these people land back in therapy in a colleague’s office. Sometimes they move away. Sometimes they call again months or years later because they realized that they were still stuck.
A better way to approach therapy is to surrender to the road in front of you. Therapy allows you to take new steps, travel to new horizons, vistas, mirages, pain, light, and meadows, and being on the path means not predetermining the course.
I am saddened to think that those who quit will suffer more losses, more denial, and more pain due to their fears and “stuckness.” And I am frustrated because I believe life is forever trying to get us to see deeper dimensions of existence, and these clients continue to ignore this call. We get so many quiet opportunities, but most of us only take notice or flinch when the big, shocking earthquakes hit.
In the end, it’s about fears of vulnerability, neediness, and attachment. It’s about the judging mind and culture and family and friends. It’s because we look around and decide that no one else disrobes this much and they seem to be fine, so we should be too. It’s about fear, pride, and a lot of mysterious things.
But for those of us who don’t stop the journey, who just keep going, keep letting the path unfold before us – for those of us who surrender to personal growth as a primary purpose of life – we know the rewards are persistently building up even if sometimes they are invisible to us. That’s the nature of heeding to this type of call, and dedicating to your life path — it’s always a beautiful, fabulous mystery. Just like life itself, no one knows when or how a personal growth journey will end.