Sometimes it feels like my "job" is to point out the obvious.
For a few seconds at the beginning of my counseling career, I felt like a shyster — taking money for noting out loud what seemed blatantly obvious. But when, with client after client, what I saw as "obvious" was declared a "lightbulb moment" for them, I began to not only value the service I offered, but to wonder at the phenomenon itself.
What I've come to realize is that we humans have an amazing capacity for NOT putting two and two together. It doesn't matter who you are — genius, successful, experienced, educated or not — you miss something. Lots of somethings. It's like we walk around with blinders on.
I'm no exception. Case and point:
I've always known I was a "southpaw." But, until last Friday, I thought eating and writing were the only things I did with my left hand. Turns out I brush my teeth left-handed, too. It took me more than 30 years to note something I've been doing for more than 30 years. Crazy, right? The discovery came out of a casual discussion with my in-laws about my left-handedness. Someone probed me about my habits and, forced to think about it, I was astonished by what I discovered.
Lest you think these moments of epiphany must be few and far between, I shall astonish you with another story of astonishment from this past week:
Last Sunday, I was cruising the Costco aisles with my parents (yup, #merica) when some dried mango caught my eye. I think I hugged a bag to my chest and regaled my father with a story of culinary courtship. My dad grabbed the bag from me, slid his eyes over the label and muttered, "Huh, sulfur dioxide. Bet it makes you fart." I laughed. We put it in the cart. I've been munching on it all week. And ... wait for it ... yup, I've been visiting the bathroom a little more than usual all week.
So, turns out dad was right. Sulfur dioxide should not be consumed by humans. Today, thinking back on his utterance in the aisle, I realize that my beloved dried mango messes with my stomach. There's a correlation. And thinking back on the past couple of months since I first discovered said mango, the mango has ALWAYS messed with my stomach. There's ALWAYS been a correlation. I just don't know that I would have seen it had my dad not mentioned sulfur dioxide.
Needless to say, I tossed out the rest of the mango today.
Anyway, the point? I think we all do a lot of things out of habit. Whether it's muscle memory or instinct or learned behavior, we do a lot without thinking about it. We don't always connect the dots. That's not inherently a bad thing ... at all ... but it can be. That's where I think therapy can be helpful — in the cluing us in and clarifying of things.
No, you certainly don't need to know that you brush your teeth with your left hand or that mango makes you fart. However, it may help you to know
... that you're attracted to chaotic relationships because that's what you grew up navigating.
... that being uncomfortable is comforting to you and that that's why you sabotage anything good in your life.
... that you eat excessively (or starve) because food is the one thing in life you've ever felt you had any power/control over.
... that you drink alcohol to avoid being socially awkward because being socially awkward makes you feel what you've always felt and believed about yourself — that you're alone and unworthy of love and attention.
... that [insert your story here] ...
All of it, any of it, might help you to know that change is possible.
I think therapy is a lot about that stuff — the exploration of what we do and why we do it and why it matters. More importantly, therapy is about the hope generated by the exploration — a brand new opportunity to respond accordingly, to begin again ... to be transformed.
Awareness is a requisite first step toward change. So, here's to taking the blinders off?