Can you take a challenge from the year 200 AD???
This is a story about some Christian guys, and while I personally identify with that on a deeper level, I think it has a great and challenging message for most anyone, even atheists, and I'm going to try to relate it to therapy.
So there was a community of hermit monks who lived in Egypt in about 200 AD, maybe even earlier. Sort of like in an intensive therapy facility out in a peaceful place, they tried to chill out alone, and then came together to ask questions with an older guy who had been around a long time there. Sometimes they tried to trick the guy!
Anyway, their writings, amazingly, have been preserved and have been really influential since then because of their emphasis on peace, discretion, and humility in hard times.
So this group of young guys comes to an old guy named "Shepherd" and although they know who he is and where he lives, they decide to have some fun with him. They decided to have some fun with him, and see if her really was all that "wise"' after all. So they started asking questions:
They said, "Hey, are you Shepherd, the angry, flawed man?" He said, "Yes, that's me!"
They said, "Are you Shepherd, the teacher who pretends to be wise?" He said, "You've got him!"
They said, "Are you Shepherd, the one who is hated by God?" He said, "No, you've go the wrong guy."
So they asked him, "We thought you were wise, and we expected you to be humble and admit that you're far from perfect, so why didn't you say 'yes' to the last question about being hated by God?"
He answered, "True humility is about accepting reality, not putting yourself down. I am not perfect, so I admitted to that, but not being perfect is OK because God loves me. Telling lies to yourself and others isn't humble at all."
My goal in therapy isn't for my clients to simply be "happy" (keep reading), but to be able to courageously face reality as an individual. And to not label themselves with untruths, which are often the result of personal tragedy or traumatic experiences. I hope my clients can be happy, but real happiness only happens when people can be OK as an individual in reality, when the future is uncertain but full of hope because they know:
1. The bad times (and/or the trauma) are truly over and behind them
2. They can reject responsibility for what they haven't done, and accept responsibility for what they have done. 3. They can see that the future can be different, and that they have a lot of control over the outcome of their lives.
4. Their true identity comes from being an individual, and doesn't come from being part of a group--that is, from having a label (including a mental illness label).
These four goals of therapy are what Dr. Francine Shapiro and others have called "adaptive thinking"--living in reality. I hope you can see how the wise monk's answers show a picture of that." By the way, although it was Francine who discovered EMDR, all of this holds true for any therapy, including marriage therapy.
If you have found this post useful, check out my most popular post, "Fake happiness vs. mental health." You can search that one in the blog just by typing in "fake happiness."