“Without realizing that the past is constantly determining their present actions, they avoid learning anything about their history. They continue to live in their repressed childhood situation, ignoring the fact that it no longer exists, continuing to fear and avoid dangers that, although once real, have not been real for a long time.”
- Alice Miller
from The Drama of the Gifted Child
As a therapist, I am deeply committed to the idea that I will never be able to take my clients to places I have not been willing to go to myself. Therefore, every week I go to my own therapist to explore my own depths, heal from my own past wounds, and become empowered to show up in the world as the best version of myself. My therapist is wonderfully skilled at helping me make connections between my past relational wounds and present ways of relating that don’t serve me well. She helps me to make my unconscious conscious so that I can turn off my autopilot, snap out of old survival patterns, and live more authentically. The process is both painful and richly rewarding.
Through my work with my therapist and my work with my own clients over the past 10 years, I am endlessly amazed by how everything has meaning and nothing exists in a vacuum. The meaning is not usually obvious and it takes a blend of curiosity, patience and dedication to unearth it. Afterall, it has taken us our entire life to develop our current ways of being in the world and so it is silly to think that we can experience transformation quickly. Our past, present, and future are always interconnected and dancing with one another. Often the things in our lives that we are least curious about need the most attention because they are the easiest to dismiss. For example, any time you find yourself saying something like, “That’s just the way I have always been,” you would do well to pause and explore deeper.
A couple of months ago I went to my therapist’s office, walked into her building and down the stairs to her waiting room. I have a standing appointment every week at 10am and she is always exactly on time. I looked at my watch I saw that the time was 9:56am. It occured to me that I forgot to lock my car, which had my computer bag in it. I felt a bit panicky internally as I realized that I didn’t have enough time to go out to my car, lock it, and get back before she came to get me from the waiting room. Sure enough, the waiting room door opened at exactly 10am. She said hello and welcomed me as usual. Instead of simply telling her that I forgot to lock my car and that I needed to run out and do so, I said, “So, I forgot to lock my car. On a scale of 1-10 how likely is it that someone might reach in and grab my computer?” She tilted her slightly at the oddness of both my energy and my question and said, “It seems like you would be more comfortable if you just went and locked it.” I told her that was correct, apologized, and ran out to lock my car. All in all our session started only about 3 minutes later than usual. This experience could have easily been overlooked with the assumption that there was no deeper meaning and we could have just jumped into the themes we were working on the previous session. My therapist, however, noticed an opportunity and asked me what was going on for me during that interaction. To my surprise, a swell of sadness and tears came up. At first I had no idea where the emotion was coming from, but chose to stay with it. We spent the entire session following the emotion back to some really old childhood emotional wounds that may have been missed that day if my therapist didn’t believe that all of our human interactions are charged with meaning.
Thanks to the odd and intentional nature of the therapeutic relationship and its ability to make the unseen seen, I have cultivated an ability to pay closer attention to my more fleeting thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations so that I can slow them down and look at them with more curiosity. Many times these fleeting experiences carry meaning and can lead to deep places that need some care and attention. The work is usually slow, sometimes unclear in its direction, but always curious and pregnant with meaning. It has made me a better husband, father, therapist, and human.
At Mindful Counseling GR we are passionate about pursuing the meaning that often hides in the seemingly insignificant corners of your story. We do this work because we have a love for helping people live authentically and be the best versions of themselves. We believe that the world is a better place when each of us are able to heal from past wounds, let go of old survival patterns that are now self-defeating, and fully and freely live into the fullness of who we are. It is into this process that we invite you. If any of this resonates with you or you have a degree of curiosity about how you show up in your world, we would be profoundly honored to walk with you through the process of insight, healing, and transformation.
Bryan Nixon is a fellow traveler on this journey of life who is deeply passionate about helping people explore and understand the depths of who they are, identify unconscious patterns that are not working, and reconnect with their innate ability to flourish in the world.
Bryan is a psychotherapist and the founder of Mindful Counseling GR in Grand Rapids, MI. He is also a founding member of the Relationally-Focused Psychodynamic Therapy (RFPT) program based in Seattle, WA, which is a continuing education program for licensed therapists to deepen the work they do with their clients.
Bryan Nixon and Audrey Byker first met several years ago at the Inspired Life GR conference in Grand Rapids, MI and share a passion for helping people live into the best version of who they are.
Please check out www.mindfulcounselinggr.com for more information.