When I moved to Seattle, I booked a one-way plane ticket and hoped for the best. I didn’t have a job, and I only knew a handful of people in the area. And yet, I felt it was the right thing to do. Something drew me to the city. Nevertheless, that first month was difficult. I had many moments where I paused and thought “What am I doing?” I doubted my ability to find a job and worried that I had made a big mistake by leaving behind the many job prospects I had in the city where I previously lived.
I’m sharing this story not to brag about my bravado (trust me, this move was way out of the ordinary for me) but rather to illustrate a point. Whenever we make a change, it requires a leap of faith and trust in the process. It means leaving behind the cocoon of comfort and familiarity and jumping into something uncertain. You may feel like you are fed up with the way things are and want something different but you aren’t sure how to get there.
When I moved to Seattle, something told me that I could build a life worth living here. And yet, I wasn’t sure of the details. Would I get a job? Where would I live? Would I make new friends? Of course, I would not have moved if I did not believe that moving could lead to something better, but it was a risk. Things could get better or things could get worse, I thought. But, it seemed like a risk worth taking.
Starting therapy can feel similar to this experience. Will things get better or will they get worse? Many people come to therapy because they want their lives to be different. They want lives worth living and aren’t quite sure to get from where they are to where they want to be. But, there’s a level of uncertainty that comes with choosing to do something different. Will things really get better or will they get worse? Am I capable of making the changes that I want to make and sustaining them? That cocoon of comfort and familiarity can feel pretty great when faced with these questions.
It is scary to do something different because there is no guarantee that things will work out the way you want them to. It means facing uncertainty and risking failure, but it also means risking success.
Sometimes, coming to therapy isn’t even about making a change. It’s about showing up and sharing something painful that you would rather not talk about. And yet, that thing is there haunting you at hours of the night and during the day when you would rather be focused on other things. Coming to therapy means taking the risk of sharing it and being heard. As a therapist, it’s my responsibility to hear you and respond non-judgmentally. However, I recognize that saying that doesn’t take away the feeling that you are taking a risk by sharing that information.
Whether it’s making a change or talking about something difficult, coming to therapy can stir up feelings of vulnerability and fear. Fear is the most common response to uncertainty. Making a change would be a lot easier if we were certain it would give us the outcome we want. It requires a willingness to vulnerable and will to accept the risk associated with not being able to control the outcome. On the other side of this risk is the possibility of great joy or great relief.
Brene Brown describes this possibility best when she says:
“As I look back on what I’ve learned about shame, gender, and worthiness, the greatest lesson is this: If we’re going to find our way out of shame and back to each other, vulnerability is the path and courage is the light. To set down those lists of what we’re supposed to be is brave. To love ourselves and support each other in the process of becoming real is perhaps the greatest single act of daring greatly.”
Five years later, I can confidently say that moving to Seattle was worth the risk. It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worth it. Many people say the same thing about therapy. Taking the risk of being vulnerable creates opportunity for great connection, which often leads to great joy and great relief.