German philosopher – Arthur Schopenhauer, wrote a fable about porcupines who, needing protection from the freezing cold, craved the warmth of being close to one another. However, as they moved closer in proximity, so their quills poked each other. There followed a dance, where they moved away, shivering in the cold yet again, only to creep closer, attempting to reach that safe place where they could feel the warmth and security of each other without feeling smothered or in pain. The positioning was tenuous.

Although we may often feel otherwise, we are not isolated beings in the world. We live alongside each other and are forever negotiating connection and space, vulnerability and risk, loneliness and kinship. We are all Schopenhauer’s porcupines.

Being close and opening up to others, means exposing our vulnerabilities; showing our inner selves, who we really are. But..

  • How can I endure the pain of revealing myself?
  • How much will the other person understand?
  • Will they still like me if they see how I really am?
  • What if they don’t like what they see?
  • What if they do?
  • What if they want more of me than I can give?
  • What if they overwhelm me?

How can therapy help?

Research shows that the major contributing factor leading to a positive therapeutic outcome, is the relationship between client and therapist. Therapy provides an opportunity to engage in and be part of a unique relationship. Regular sessions meeting with the same therapist allow individuals to form a safe and boundaried connection free from judgement and criticism. Space and time is given for a person to reveal their inner feelings, fears and emotions, not only to the therapist but also to themselves. There is no requirement for the client to ‘be’ a certain way for the therapist and any difficulties in connecting can be talked about and explored; obstacles overcome in ways that often feel impossible in every day life. Clients are given room to understand who they really are; to become better acquainted with themselves. So often people come to therapy not really knowing what they feel; indeed, not really feeling what they feel. Therapy can help people face themselves, but not alone.

Therapy is not easy and neither should it be. However, it is safe and supportive and allows you to experience a myriad of emotions in a secure and holding therapeutic relationship. In essence, the therapeutic relationship is an emotionally intimate relationship. The very questions and concerns that are raised above can be confronted and explored within the therapy.

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