“If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering.” ― Viktor E. Frankl
When I say I work in a “depth” capacity it means I am not solely concerned with what presents on the surface of things. I do not view symptoms only as problems to be solved or silenced. Of course I am dedicated to reducing suffering, but I believe our symptoms (and suffering) can offer an invitation to know oneself more deeply. Symptoms can be guides to what in us needs healing. We can only heal what we pay attention to- and so symptoms are often our body and mind’s way of catching our attention- our psyche’s way of begging us to be in relationship with ourselves. When we ignore the call of our symptoms our suffering continues in an endless whack-a-mole of pain: one behavior gets substituted for another– you stop binging and purging on ice cream but start binging and purging relationships, reincarnations of our messed up family system keep unfolding, we continue to feel lost or disconnected. If we don’t truly listen to the needs our symptoms express they will get really loud. Maybe nervous break down loud. Panic attack loud. Depression-collapse loud. Even suicide loud. If we just make the symptom vanish, via Xanax or spiritual bypass, or any number of very human defenses, we can miss the message. We deprive ourselves of meaning. We know when we have mined meaning from our inner experience because there is a clarity that in time offers a particular kind of peace. Our symptoms aren’t simply reduced or replaced with something else, they are transmuted. As existential psychologist Victor Frankl would frame it: a “why” emerges that gives us strength in painful times to locate our “how”.
** Please note: The use of medication, most effectively in conjunction with psychotherapy, is often a valuable part of a healing process. My post is in no way meant to dismiss the important role psychopharmacology can play in certain treatment, nor would I ever intend to stigmatize anyone who is supported by prescribed medication. I do believe the medical model can be too pathologizing about symptoms, and medications are often used as quick fixes that prevent deeper psychological inquiry and understanding– and, therefore, true healing from occurring. Many of my clients are on medications and I work collaboratively with prescribing psychiatrists to coordinate care.
© Meredith Redding LMFT
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