I was looking through my old notebooks the other day, which contained syllabi, homework assignments and papers from my time at Naropa in graduate school.
As a requirement for participating in the Transpersonal Counseling Psychology program at Naropa, each student has to complete 30 hours of therapy on their own with a therapist of his/her choice.
There are very few structural stipulations around it, but basically the hours have to be completed at some point over the three years.
I stumbled upon a journal entry that I had written about my experiences during those 30 hours:
I just finished my 30 hours with my therapist and I feel as though the person who I was when I first entered her office is very different from the person that I am now. She has given me the tools I feel are essential to living as expanded and fulfilled life as possible.
I am going to have challenges, and there will always be lessons to learn, but she has opened my eyes when I didn’t realize they closed. She has allowed me perspective into my own life and forced me to take off the blinders that I had been wearing for so long.
When I first went to her, I entered into her office rattled and shaken by 2008 and all that had happened, but was cloaked in this robe of pride and stoicism, with an inability to be truly authentic in my emotional experiences. I didn’t really know how to be. I knew how to survive. I was good at that. I was afraid to admit to myself and her how deeply I was being impacted, because I wanted to be strong. But who was it that I was really being strong for? It didn’t seem like I was necessarily being strong for myself because the whole thing felt relatively weakening.
Through many sessions of drawn out discussions, she noticed this in me (pretty quickly), a lack of access that I had to my truest emotional experiences. Until one day, it just started to happen, and I slowly began to open, and I felt one of the most powerful shifts inside of me. For the first time I wasn’t afraid of being vulnerable, I wasn’t hiding anymore behind feelings and wasn’t pushing them to the side even as they were screaming for expression. There was nothing to be but myself.
The tools I have been taken away from those 30 hours are the beauty of authenticity, the power behind verbalizing what is going on inside, the courage to stay with even the scariest of experiences, and the heart to care for not just myself but those around me. She has given me perspectives and allowed me to be aware of my judgments and assumptions that I make. She has shown me that we as humans should never be ashamed of those assessments we make of others.
For it isn’t the judgments that are dangerous, it is merely how we let them control our behavior.
She really taught me not to be afraid. Not that I was afraid of the experiences, but I was more afraid of how they were going to hurt me or how they were going to limit me, but until I was able to really speak with Alexandra, she allowed me to see how these experiences were learning opportunities and portals for self expansion.
Life is going to put in front of me lots of hurdles. My character isn’t defined by how I see those experiences and the stories I can tell when the seas have calmed; it lies in how I respond to them and the lessons I take away.
I feel humbled and appreciative for what I have learned, saddened but bright eyed for the tools I have been given and how I will use what I have now to equip me for all challenges and turns ahead.
I finished that journal entry feeling humbled and grateful, realizing that four years have passed since I wrote those words.
I will always remember her and her formative influence. Life consists of lesson after lesson.
I will never turn down the opportunity to learn.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise