The cave you fear to enter
holds the treasure that you seek
- Joseph Campbell
Most children, with their vivid imaginations, are scared of haunted houses, dark attics or basements and bogeymen in the closet. They are often afraid that if they enter these places, they won't return, or certainly won't return unscathed. Adults are really not that different!
Most people seek psychotherapy because something isn't working in their lives. As therapy begins,there is often a lot of fear of going within, of going into those root cellars and dark caves. There is often a hesitancy about exploring those unknown or barely remembered places within. Often therapy clients question, why go there? Why stir up the past, or at least what appears to be left behind?
I have two answers to those questions:
1) Although the past may seem to be left behind, many of the ways each person sees and reacts to themselves, others and their environment is shaped by their past experiences. Rarely is anyone free of past influence on their current behavior, outlook on life.
2) That dark unexplored place within, may contain painful memories and experiences. Yet by bringing them to light and facing them, there is the opportunity for them to loosen their unconscious grip on you, for you to have more choice and freedom. You may also encounter positive feelings that were buried in the cave for safekeeping. By entering the cave, there is the opportunity to find that buried, long-lost treasure and bring it back out of the cave into your lived life!
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley