4 Paradoxes To Expect In Psychotherapy

Your psychotherapy sessions should be full of surprises. You don’t need to pay a professional to keep things predictably the same. But the things that surprise you may not be the kinds of surprises you expected. In fact there are a lot of paradoxes that can be tough to wrap your head around. It doesn’t make sense for both to be true. But they are. Here are just five of them.

1. You can be very angry at someone and still love them very much. This is familiar to any parent who gets angry at their child for running in the street. But our standards for other adults, and particularly our own parents, can be a lot higher. When the things to be angry about go well beyond average imperfections, into the zone of transgression, it’s even harder to reconcile how to love and hate the same person. 

2. An angel whispers in one ear. A demon whispers in the other. And if you thinkstandards for other adults are high, wait untill you see the standards we hold ourselves to! You can be a very good person, while having some very bad thoughts and fantasies. The key is that you don’t DO bad actions that you know will harm yourself or others. But if you believe you’re bad because of those thoughts, guess what. Most people do. Everyone has a dark side. And most of us don’t know what to do with it, except feel bad about it or try to pretend it's not there. Getting to know it and weave it into your understanding of yourself, and work with it, puts you in the driver’s seat of your life and the choices you're empowered to make more consciously.

3. Sometimes the only way to feel better is to allow yourself to feel worse for a while. If you’re like most people in therapy, the only way to the other side of bad feelings is through the bad feelings. It may sound like a heavy load, particularly when you’re feeling vulnerable. Of course it’s too much to carry by yourself. People hire therapists to help carry that extra load, while learning about the load. Your therapist helps you to carry it until two things happen:

  • Your load is lighter.
  • You’re stronger and better equipped to carry a little extra load (when it comes up) on your own.

4. Finding ease in your life can mean finding ease with paradoxes. It's easy to believe that if one thing is true, the opposite is false. If one thing is good, then it's opposite is bad. But grownup thinking knows that reality doesn't always comply with that pattern. Humans tend to want things to make sense, be one way or the other, or to have a rational explanation. When things aren't making sense, the internal conflict can be stressful. But it’s also hard work for our rational human brain to accept paradoxical situations. It becomes easier as you become more aware of the paradoxes that already exist in your life, and your awareness empowers you with choices and acceptance. 

Uncovering paradoxes is the first and biggest step to deflating the stress they cause. Paradoxes can only cause stress when we’re not aware of them. We can’t choose what to do with something we’re not aware of. When you bring a paradox to awareness, you’re starting the process of taking your life back. In your own therapy you’ll probably discover other paradoxes with varying levels of difficulty to integrate. Discussions with your therapist can bring them to light, and begin the process of empowering your insight.