I just read a New York Magazine article about psychotherapy and strangely, I connected with it deeply. I don’t know the first thing about psychotherapy (except that I could probably use some) but from what I’ve gathered in the article, it seems the plight of the modern psychotherapist is something I can relate to in a major way. I highly recommend the article, but if the implications of the article hold merit, the vast majority of people won’t have the patience to read through the 6 page account of this one psychotherapist.
Over the years, I’ve become absolutely convinced about the transformative power of inner work and going deeper into the soul in order to be a healthier and more content individual. A healthier self can be a great gift to the people and world around us. I’d even argue that it is the best gift. This journey takes a lot of work and time and energy, not to mention uncovering of old wounds and a lot of pain – and I have a feeling many of us opt to go the shorter route to avoid a lot of this painstaking inner work. I do it myself all the time. I know what’s good for me, but I choose the shortcut, for whatever reason – it’s quicker, easier, less painful. And as much as this term gets overused in our day, this all really is instant gratification. I can say with much confidence that most of the time, instant gratification does not benefit us in the long-term.
The author in this article tells her story about how her career is on the brink of extinction because many people no longer want long-term sessions of deep inner work but instead, subscribe to more of a “5 Steps to Happiness” framework. She spoke with branding consultants who continued to tell her that she has to market herself as an appealing brand, with short-term solutions, one-time sessions, more coaching and advice-giving rather than going into one’s history and psychology in depth. Once she started to re-brand, she generated more interest in her practice and gained more clients. But at what cost? Her values and genuine interest in actually helping people seemed to be compromised down this road.
There are so many parallels to draw from this psychotherapist’s story to my own journey. I know for myself, the temptation to skim through life has become overwhelming. When I am given the choice to take a quicker route over the long, more arduous journey, I tend to choose the shorter road. When it comes to music, I don’t practice nearly enough because I don’t see immediate results. I’d rather get to the performance and enjoy the limelight. When it comes to relationships, I find myself avoiding the harder conversations because it will be awkward for a little while. I’d rather laugh and enjoy our time together, albeit somewhat superficially. I seem to lack a certain sticktoitiveness and workingitoution that I value so much. Okay, those are hardly words but you know what I mean.
And so I’ve been generally very unsettled lately, and have become more and more withdrawn from the dizzying pace the world around me seems to be marching. I do not want to go down that path. I want to read every word of that 1,000 page book and hear out the long versions of people’s stories and take 20 years to write a really good song and recount and rehash that painful memory so that I don’t, in turn, wound someone else and ask some tough questions about my faith and forgive and forgive and forgive through and through. And then be okay that none of this seems very productive or fruitful or gets any results to which I can point and stand proud.
Because that is life. The good and true and beautiful takes time and we must fight for it. And if I microwave my life away I won’t know how deep and how wide and how vast the human soul is. So I choose the long and windy road, knowing I’ll be on this path for awhile.