What I Can Offer
Letter to a therapist
I live in a society where I feel at odds with what is considered valuable, right, good, or healthy. Perhaps I am reserved, or overweight. Maybe I don't feel attractive, or socially confident. Perhaps I hear voices, or see things others don’t. Maybe I’m moody. Perhaps I suffer with intense loneliness, anxiety or depression. Or maybe I don’t have an easy temperament, and I struggle to make friends with others. Maybe I don't feel good enough, bright enough, or deserving enough to be where I am. Maybe I am someone who has suffered trauma in life, and I struggle with the memory of what happened, perhaps feeling anger, shame, guilt and self-loathing. Perhaps I have strange experiences, or am rebellious and non-conforming. Or maybe I am a creative divergent thinker in a job or society that wants conformity. Maybe I have been told I am wrong, deficient, or defective. I feel helpless and marginalised, always on the outside looking in. Maybe I struggle to accept I am of worth, no matter what others say, or what I do. I have struggled to change things about myself, or I want to change but don't know how. Maybe I believe I am broken and worthless. And so, I come to you and hope you can fix me.
What I get is someone who really listens to me. I may find it hard to talk at first, so start to tell my story slowly. Or perhaps I have had this pent up inside me for so long that it just comes tumbling out, all at once. Maybe I expect you to reject me, as others have done. Or perhaps I expect you to tell me what’s wrong with me, or how to cope. But whatever happens you listen intently, and accept me for who I am, warts and all. No one has ever been so interested in my story, not even me. I tell you about my struggles, how broken I feel, how helpless. Perhaps I tell you how I feel I can’t go on anymore. And as I tell you all this, I begin to realise that there is an inner observer within me. I do not know what that is, but what it feels like is something timeless beyond all the struggle and pain. There is an 'I', and this 'I' has a 'Will'. It is 'I' who has observed the suffering, and the joy. It is also the 'I' who acknowledges my hopes and dreams. I learn to use my will skilfully; to gradually gain the power of increased judgement and decision in the application of drive.
You listen to my story and say I am valuable; that I am unique. You respect how I have tried to cope in this world. We gently explore all the different parts to me. Over time I come into focus, and begin to find a way to balance things. I find my centre , a valuable, intelligent and compassionate centre. And it is the 'I' which accepts my hopes and dreams, as well as all the difficulties I have experienced in life. I find that when I identify with my centre, I can rise above the critical voices I hear from either inside or outside, or the moods I have. It is an 'I' that can ‘own’ me, and the life I choose. I am all my experiences, good and bad. I can hold them all compassionately, and see them for whatever value they can provide. I learn I am not just my voices, pain, moods, hopes, dreams, struggles and failures. I find I can take all these things, and like an artist, I can use them to create my life in any direction I choose. It doesn’t matter if some of these things are biological, I can still use them to paint a life. And that happens all because you listen, because you take me seriously and treat me as an authentic source of my own experience. I feel I can walk forward into a different future. I believe I can find my own place in the world with the others.
And that is what I wish for everyone.
Based on 'Arthur C. Bohart (2017). A client-centred perspective on 'psychopathology'. Person-Centered & Experiential Psychotherapies, 16:1, 14-26
"I find that when I identify with my centre, I can rise above the critical voices I hear from either inside or outside, or the moods I have".
"I am all my experiences, good and bad. I can hold them all compassionately, and see them for whatever value they can provide".