Traditional therapy is often a blend of inquiry and validation, followed by the time-honored refrain, “How does that make you feel?”
While this process may feel nurturing and comforting for the therapy client, it often falls short of achieving the desired changes.
To be sure, as a therapist there are moments when I genuinely ask how my client feels and try to illuminate how they came to that feeling. However, to ignite the change process truly effective therapy often needs to transcend simple validation. My experience teaches me that my clients long for the insights and tools to break free from their struggles and limitations.
The Critical Moment Before Feelings
Here’s one pivotal skill that most people can learn if they set their intention to do so: I teach my clients that thoughts typically precede feelings. If you’re aware of a troubling feeling, ask yourself what thought you just had that likely provoked this feeling. To that end, I’ve devised a method to help people develop the ability to literally see their thought, and so, not become the thought. In that momentary window in which you see your thought and choose not to become it, you are freed from the past. In that instant, you can transcend your habitual thoughts and feelings and break into new territory.
In the nanosecond between your thoughts, you exist in a state of pure possibilities.
The common belief that it’s hard to change is regrettably a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have found that change is readily accessible once we break free from servitude to old beliefs, thoughts, and feelings. Once you are no longer subordinated to your thoughts, an insightful inner knowing emerges. Leaning into the uncertainty in the space between your thoughts gives you access to a wellspring of wisdom.
Check Out Your Thoughts
Check out your thoughts right now.
If you’re having a thought like, “That sounds hard to do,” witness that thought.
It isn’t the “truth.” It’s just your old thought defending its territory.
When a client balks at the possibility of learning to see their thoughts, I’ll ask, “Has anyone ever taught you how to do this?”
A New Skill for Living
It was challenging to learn to read or do math, but we were capable of being taught to do those things. I do the same with my clients.
After practicing psychotherapy for nearly 40,000 hours, I maintain that learning to see your thought and not become it is the most empowering experience. The technique enables you to become masterful in communication skills, develop authentic self-esteem, and navigate the roadblocks to reaching resilient relationships.
I do care about what my clients feel, but I am also compelled to provide them with tools to break free of old, imprisoning, habitual thoughts and feelings.
I love to teach and provide insights and practices to help people thrive in their lives. My calling to therapy was to enlighten and illuminate a path toward living well. For me, this requires moving beyond simple inquiry and validation. Feelings matter and need to be validated, but should never serve as the roadblock to your growth and emergence.