Have you ever tried to slow down your activity level so much so that you became aware of every micro-movement you are making? This was a mindfulness exercise I participated in with a group. One group member commented that the experience was “destabilizing but informative.” That description stuck with me. It seemed to shed light on what might be a core truth: opportunities to learn about ourselves may grow best when we are not at our best. The exercise was indeed destabilizing – when we try to walk so slowly that for a brief moment it feels like both feet are actually lifted off the ground. The force of gravity on our own equilibrium is quite powerful. We stumble, but we’ve also learned about how our bodily movements precisely coordinate to create the flow of walking.
The experience of therapy applies here as well. I think of therapy as a kind of slowing down. We examine, look closely, break down experiences and interactions into the moment-to-moment feelings and observations that usually just fly by without notice. Most of us do not spend the time examining deeply on a regular basis – and realistically, we do not usually have the time or wherewithal to do so. Committing oneself to the work of therapy is a way to make that time possible. But this can be a scary prospect – the close examination and realization of truths that are painful, can be destabilizing. It can open up wounds, bring on confusion, hurt, regret, and pain.
The other side of the destabilization is the informative one, the realizations that can open up more possibilities for living contently and comfortably in the world. When we know what is tugging on us and how others are impacting us, we learn what we need emotionally. We then have the gift of being able to pursue those needs and the knowledge that having those needs met is indeed a possibility.