The Starting Point
I have over thirty-five years of being a therapist under my belt. A substantial portion of that time has been accompanied by study, teaching and a variety of therapeutic experiences of my own. When I was in my early thirties I reminded myself that it was imprudent to write or say much publically before turning fifty. Youth has a natural impulsivity about it and I didn’t want to open myself to that unnecessarily. Now that I’m well past sixty I feel ready to hazard saying out loud some of the things I’ve learned. So, what follows is an offering of thoughts and feelings born of years spent listening to people struggle with both ordinary and extraordinary life circumstances. Read it knowing that it’s only my perspective and can be tossed as easily as it can be taken in. I have long since given up believing that what I say or write will have the exact, intended impact I was seeking. If it has an impact at all it will be what you allow it to have and no more.
What's so important about the path?
Every trip needs its map. While it may be fun to take a Sunday drive—to get in a vehicle and “see where the road takes us,”—if we are intent on arriving at a particular destination we need to have a fairly clear sense of our beginning point as it relates to our desired ending point. Sometimes the path comes in very specific terms. For example, people will say things like, "I want to retire at age 55." Or, "I'd like to have the kind of marriage where my spouse and I share recreational interests." At other times, the path comes in much more nebulous terms.
What's so important about the process?
Once we have established where we want to be, the next, obvious question is, “How do we get there?” The process is all about the internal working out of the problems that have been identified. Sometimes that involves looking at and reconsidering aspects of our history. Sometimes it means attending more fully to what's happening in the here and now.
What's so important about presence?
Presence is what allows us to make use of our path and our process. Often we are reactive to our path and/or our process. We don't like where we seem to be going. Consequently, we resist our path in ways that may make it impossible to get where we want to go. Or, we don't like how we feel...we can't bear our fear or anger. This may cause us to avoid the feelings or, on the other hand, we may identify with the feeling as we way of getting it over with. Presence allows us to be with our path, where ever it takes us, and our process, no matter what it brings. We can be with these aspects of our experience in a way that allows us to actually change our path or our process.
Jake Thiessen, PhD
I've been working with couples for a very long time. And, I love it! This blog is my attempt to communicate some of the things I've learned over the past 35 years.