Ocean picture with waves by the shore

The Point of Therapy

Elizabeth Lesser writes so beautifully about therapy and why it can be useful.  She is having a conversation with her sister, Maggie, who has been recently diagnosed with cancer, about why they should go to therapy together to work through past challenges between them and to prepare them for an upcoming bone marrow transplant where Lesser is the perfect match.

From “Marrow: A Love Story” by Elizabeth Lesser

“It’s too late for me to change who I am, Liz,” Maggie says.

“Why would you have to change who you are?” I ask her.

“Isn’t that the point of therapy?”

“Actually, it’s the opposite,” I say.  “You don’t try to change yourself. You try to know yourself, and then to be yourself – your real self.”

“What does that even mean, ‘your real self’?” Maggie asks. “I feel pretty real these days.”

“Words are going to fail me here,” I say, pre apologizing for the inadequate words at my disposal. “These are hard things to talk about without sounding like a moron.”

“Try me,” Maggie says.

“What I mean is we’re all born exactly who we are supposed to be, but we take these weird detours in order to fit in, or please others, or get our way or just get by. We suffer wounds and build up scar tissue. You know how Shakespeare said, ‘To thine own self be true’? Well, for most of us, the voice of ‘thine own self’ gets harder and harder to hear because other voices take over. Therapy is separating out the voices in your head, and deciding which ones to listen to and which ones steer you away from your real self, your real purpose, what you love, what you value. There’s power in naming the voices in your head: This one’s my father’s voice, that one belongs to a sister, that other one to a teacher, a husband, a wife, the culture, the country. Ah, and this one, this one rising to the surface, this one is mine.  My own self. Can I trust that voice? Can I be true to it? That’s therapy.”