Posted on December 4th, 2012
There is more to us as human beings than can readily fit into our everyday sense of who we are. When we are in the midst of therapy, some of the previously unknown and even unsuspected aspects of ourselves often show up.
These new elements don’t generally make themselves known in the polite way a new person might arrive in our lives, with a proper introduction, some intelligent dialogue, a good feeling all around. No, they come along like bumps in the night. Sometimes they introduce themselves as uncomfortable feelings in our bodies, persistent stomachaches or tight shoulders. Or we may find out about them through some behavior which seems strange to us, even though we’re the ones doing this out-of-character behavior.
What needs to happen at this point is a slowing down, enough to take a closer look at these experiences. We may find ourselves giving voice to the concerns of these new elements, or images may float up into our awareness, new and surprising visions and perspectives. From exploring these, we can work to understand what is really going on in us.
A useful way of understanding this process is through the metaphor of extra pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. When we begin therapy we are already complete—all of our pieces fit together into a complete jigsaw puzzle, as it were, a whole picture or pattern which makes sense to us. Maybe we don’t like some of what we know, but it is all intensely familiar. It all feels like us.
Now these extra pieces which don’t fit into the puzzle have shown up. We may want to disown them as alien to our sense of ourselves, but they are not alien to who we actually are; they are a part of us. Since they don’t fit into the way we already experience ourselves, the only way forward is to take the puzzle apart and to put it together in a new way which can incorporate these pieces, developing a new experience of ourselves. We can do this through becoming aware of these extra pieces, understanding them, and learning to pay attention to their concerns and their desires.
In the face of this attention, these at first unacceptable, misbehaving, fear-provoking and sometimes even shocking extra pieces can become a source of larger awareness, greater pleasure, and increased inner strength. As we integrate them into our experience of who we are, their presence can free us from limitations which have bound us. This is the promise these extra pieces bring to our lives.