Transformation is often not pleasant. It sounds like it should be and many of us may be actively seeking transformation. Most of the time we are thrown into transformation by life and unavoidable circumstances.
As a psychotherapist and a teacher of other psychotherapists, I often see people who are trying to deal with the result of the latter path to transformation. Some unavoidable life event happens and staying the same is not an option. The person often feels blown apart by the event and comes into therapy with the goal of putting the pieces back together. Often the pieces no longer fit and transformation is the only option. The resisting or managing of that pain is often the block to the transformation. So our job becomes helping the client tolerate the pain of transformation while guiding the client toward the truth.
A metaphor I use to teach this concept is a path through the forest. In our model of teaching psychotherapy we have a very powerful way of helping clients get to the root of the pain. The actual root of the pain can be seen as a fire burning in the middle of the forest. Most of the time people come in to therapy with no awareness of the fire or the root of the current disturbance, there is just a discomfort as the forest heats up.
We have a concept that we call “The Answer”, it is a way of working with the blocks to transformation. It helps us see the way we have learned to handle stress, what we had to do to stay connected or stay safe when we were children and now it becomes both our strength and the block to happiness and freedom. Although our “Answer” was adaptive, it now comes up automatically and keeps us from getting what we want the most and creates the thing we don’t want in our life. It is tricky like that.
So as we walk toward the fire burning in the center of the forest our “Answer” tries to offer shortcuts, leading us away from the actual root of the problem. So we walk in circles, trying to figure it out, working harder, blaming others and a host of other “Answers” that have seemingly worked in the past. If the therapist has not done the difficult work of bringing awareness to their own “Answer”(s), they may just follow the client around in circles, agreeing to stay out of the fire, not really knowing why this therapy doesn’t seem to be working.
If a person is really ready and kind of lucky, he will find a therapist who has a lot of self awareness. That therapist has likely gone to the center of their own pain and allowed the truth of that pain to transform them. Then and only then can the therapist trust and lead the client to the center of the forest, the burning flame of transformation. The therapist who has been there can stand close to the flame and gently invite the client in, allowing for the burning of the flames to transform the client. Then and only then, there can be a rising like a phoenix from those flames.