How is it that traveling and psychotherapy are related?
‘Long time ago’ when we traveled we use to use maps.. Yes, those paper folded treasures, which you opened as you stepped out into the unknown city streets, looking for the nearest coffee shop or simply to know ‘where you are’.
Now there’s google maps, and citymapper apps on your smart phone, and so many other techie devices to help you find your way when you’re lost.
I personally still prefer those ‘real’ maps.. (and paper books too..) and then there are those signs on the street corners and boulevards that help you find your way when you are confused and tell you ‘you are here‘!
When I am in my therapy office (when I’m not traveling, that is..), I often try to help clients explore that same question of ‘where am I – where do I want to go — and how do I get there.’
At times, therapy is somewhat like creating a map that helps us find our way through mazes of confusion, navigating crossroads, grief, decisions, relationships, family, careers, anxieties, spiritual questions and so much more.
Having a map can be useful and important. It helps to know these three places on the map of our lives: Where am I? Where to I want to go? How do I get there?
It’s not always a simple inquiry, at times it will take a while to figure it out, but once we set on the journey, it all becomes clearer.
For me, being a therapist is like being a tour guide. I somehow can help with finding the way in these foreign landscapes and trails of psychological exploration and also can help my clients when they are lost. I do not have answers, I just hold space for the journey.
And just as I love exploring new countries, cities, and landscapes, I love sitting in my office with my clients, helping them explore their own landscapes and where they want to go. At times it’s all about seeing the same landscapes with new eyes.
It gets even more complex in my couples work, as the journey is somewhat more compounded and at times complicated and confusing. Not only do couples need to find a mutual journey, they also bring different maps, needs, wants, expectations, hurts and hopes into the landscape.
In her books, Hold Me Tight and Love Sense, Dr. Sue Johnson writes that now for the first time in the history of love, we have a map for love and for relationships. “Romantic love is not the least bit illogical or random. It is the continuation of an ordered and wise recipe for survival. We now have a map that can guide us in creating, healing and sustaining love. This is a consummate breakthrough.”
John Gottman, Ph.D., author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, writes about Hold Me Tight: “At last, a road map through Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy with its creator. Dr. Johnson’s superb science, humor, and clinical wisdom are finally accessible to all of us. I couldn’t pick a smarter, warmer, and more real guide for this journey.”
When we realize the patterns we created and the complexity of the negative cycles we get caught in, we can find where we are on the map of our relationship and then, with patience, love and therapy, find our way back to each other and to the relationship we once had.
In a recent testimonial from my last Hold Me Tight workshop, A&B say that after the workshop they started understanding their cycle of conflicts and disconnection. They were seeing their recovery time exponentially shorter. Rather then spend days in their ‘fight or flight’, or ‘freeze and flee’, they are able to recognize where they are and find their way back!
They have found the map that helped them find where they are and their way back together. They can identify when their relationship gets hijacked by the panic of disconnection and the protesting when they feel their partner moving away from them. They now possess the understanding of how their fears makes them get lost and how they can again find their way through. They can then communicate more clearly about their vulnerability and their needs.
One of the reasons I love traveling so much is that time stretches. It’s like being in a time machine, living as if time slows down. So much gets packed in a day. It feels like forever. It’s hard to believe it’s only been two weeks since I left town to go visit my daughter in London (with an added bonus of visiting friends in Paris).
I enjoyed spending precious time with my daughter and seeing old friends and also enjoyed that edge of my wanderlust, reminding me of how much I love to explore the world, being open and getting lost and found on the journey.
There’s vulnerability in travel: stepping out of our comfort zone into new language, new currency, new streets, landscapes and maps. Not knowing where you are or how to get to where you’re going can be scary at times.
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson
Our Hold Me Tight workshop in October was an amazing experience. The testimonials were superb. I’m always honored to spend a weekend with couples committed to ‘figuring things out’, learning and tuning into each other, and finding their way back to communication, intimacy, and loving bonding.