Why Talk Therapy Sometimes Isn’t the Answer
For over a decade I have been working with people, mostly couples, with significant life struggles such as grief from the death of a child; anger from the shock of infidelity or other addiction; fear over the feeling of imminent divorce; deep dismay at the continual playing out of old destructive patterns of fighting; or a sad hopelessness for the lack of connection and closeness to the ones most loved. Once in awhile too, are the loving mature couples who come to dive deeper into the mystery of life and love—who come to heighten the art of inner listening, as they follow the sacred path of relationship.
It is to each of these couples—in all of these places of vulnerability—that my mind and my soul says this:
- There is a way to peace and clarity that is beyond that which may be achieved through talk therapy alone.
- There is a path that is fundamentally richer than conflict mediation and negotiation; essentially more empowering than learning how to set good boundaries; and way more life-changing than needing to be heard.
Please know that I am not here opposing psychotherapy. It can offer some very good tools for early self-awareness building and for immediate crisis intervention.
However, having been a student of social-psychology (formally) as well as a student of meditation, care of the soul, and the mechanisms of the mind (informally and including my own awakening journey that led to this lifework as teacher-healer), I want to offer a clarity on the distinction between approaching a problem from the perspective of mainstream traditional therapy vs. approaching the same challenge from deep soul-tending - whether alone or as a couple.
The first thing that has become apparent to me now after years of couples soul-tending work is that we, as a culture, do not understand the distinction between addressing a problem analytically-pragmatically vs. meeting it soulfully-spiritually. The distinction between the analytic and the symbolic languages of mind and soul respectively, is key to any who truly seek a life-changing, self-healing breakthrough into a new level of intimacy with themselves and their partner.
Distinctions of Head vs Heart Centered Healing
Traditional talk therapy works primarily from analytic approaches to understanding psyche, emotions, behaviors and relationship. This is perhaps an unfair simplification, but still by and large true: traditional western psychotherapy is largely based upon identifying and then labeling issues in order to devise corrective behaviors using behavior modifying tools and methods. You’ll see why this is important in a moment.
The fundamental intellectual belief behind traditional therapy is that by understanding emotional triggers and learning tools to help correct a behavior, we can correct the problem. And yes, to an extent this linear approach can and will (like a good band aide) help protect and cover the wound that is playing out in most often in triggered emotional reaction or other hurtful and destructive behaviors.
But is this “corrective” approach sufficient to bringing about what it takes to remain on the path of true intimacy to self and other as we carry on down the roadways of life with all the twists and turns that will continue to face each of us alone and in partnership?
In my many years of experience with couples seeking healing and relationship breakthrough, traditional talk therapy alone will not, does not, and I dare say: cannot heal at the “core” from which true healing is required – just in the same way that western allopathic diagnostic techniques do not cure the disease. If you are in an intimate relationship such as marriage, and if what your heart longs for is deeper trust, truer authenticity, real intimacy, and a life-transforming path of growing together in ways that honor an evolutionary unfolding of the heart, then I offer you this distinction between traditional talk therapy and soul-work:
The Traditional Western Psychological Approaches
Traditional therapy can help you make connections to old patterns and wounds and gain self-awareness tools to put to use in behavioral modification methods of action.
However, traditional therapy also tends to keep a person attached to an over-identified mind with all its conditioned stories, and where change can sometimes be willfully enforced, but where no true healing and transformation can be fully realized—unless the deeper re-connection to soul is experienced.
What I often see in my work today, are couples who are very psychologically savvy, but who have not yet learned how to perceive the non-linear musical language of soul. Nor have they yet experienced the remarkable genius of soul as an intelligence that is very distinct from the intellect of the mind.
In fact, most of us are so over-identified with our thoughts that we do not yet realize the far superior intelligence we have within us – one that the mind itself cannot ever truly perceive.
Like Einstein is reported to have said “You cannot solve a problem from the same level in which is was created.” The truth is, we cannot heal from the mind, what the mind itself has created. To heal what the mind created, we have to move outside of its seeing in order to be see it. And that is where the art of breakthrough simply shows up.
This seeing and this breakthrough experience is the essence of meditation itself. When meditation becomes a living every day artistry of honoring the language of soul, then every relationship in this open field of life is moving from wholeness.
The Language of Soul-Tending Approaches
True soul-work can move a person—and a couple in crisis—very quickly beyond the corridors of the thinking mind and attachment to story judgments, into the deeper layers of the soul’s perceptive clarity. This intelligence of soul is the seat of inner knowing that we often abandon as “mere intuition”.
When a person or a couple facing a challenge, learn how to honor and follow the organic ways of insight from the space of living meditation, life naturally heals.
Learning to follow the language of soul can seem paradoxically confusing and impossible to reach. As I often say to my students: “You can have everything that called you here.” Then I add this zinger: “And there’s only one price.”
The only one price that has to be paid in order to enter into the life-changing breakthrough healing domain of the soul is:
You have to give up the need to know.
Why? Because the need to know is itself the ego-conditioned mind blocking true self realization. The ego-self can never truly perceive, grasp, own, or control the language of your soul. It is not able. It is not big enough. It is not the same language at all.
The language of soul is something that must be directly experienced, to be truly understood. When a couple comes to work with me from the devastation of an infidelity or death of a child or painful fighting and anger – we step together into a process which gives them each back their soul-centered self before we even begin to deal with the relationship or communication. Then when we do enter the pragmatic issues it is from each person’s seating in his or her soul. And in this moment, true personal and relational transformation has become seeded in their lives as a “living meditation” and they experience relief, love and honor whether they move apart or together. That is when a couple has stepped onto a new path, from: secular struggle to sacred relationship. That’s the real breakthrough.