Counselling Articles

Beyond Healing is Desire (“Do you want to do this the hard way or the easy way?”)

We can do this the hard way or the easy way

I remember, a number of years ago, spontaneously telling a new client “We can do this the hard way or the easy way.” I meant it most earnestly and graciously, and they heard it as a genuine invitation and choice.

The hard way, I explained, would be to trace your personal history in order to create a cohesive narrative that explains why you are having the kind of life experience that you are having. We would work to unearth memories and suppressed emotions, bringing whatever buried material we could find to the surface, at each step validating the unconscious choices you made in order to secure some physical or emotional need. All of this would hopefully bring a sense of integration and satisfaction, and would pave the way for greater choice in moving forward with your life and relationship.

Or, I said, we could do it the easy way. The easy way would be to begin from the premise that every twist and turn of your life has been purposeful and legitimate, and has brought you to this moment, and in this moment there is only one pertinent question: What do you want next?

An awareness of choice

Therapy, I believe, must always hold personal choice and freedom as the ultimate goal. We do therapy in many ways, for many particular reasons, but the overarching reason is to bring choice where there was not choice; more accurately, to bring an awareness of choice where there was not an awareness of choice.

It’s critically important to keep this vision, or else the therapeutic process can veer into the weeds, becoming an endless churning of past events, emotional murkiness, sociological phenomena, and the kinds of dilemma that psychology has been fascinated with for as long as it has existed.

I like to be clear about this from the onset with any new client, and I do not assume that prolonged difficulty or hard work is necessary to illuminate personal choice.

Much of the value of therapy is found within the fabric of the relationship between client and therapist. Much emphasis has been placed upon the trust bond, and the safety this creates. I use this trust to quickly model the choice that I want my clients to experience for themselves, from within, regardless of outer conditions, including other people.

Some people, many people, are almost ready to move into a more expansive experience of personal choice and freedom, but they come to therapy with an expectation that they will have to do a lot of hard work first. I do what I can to dispel this myth, and I begin by modeling the fundamental point that I am making here: I present a choice.

How do you want to do this? Are you seeking the satisfaction of excavating the past, or of creating your future? Either is fine. You choose. But each has a different energetic signature, and you can’t embody both equally at once.

Beyond healing is desire

To heal means to “make whole”. I know that you are already whole. I see your wholeness so clearly. Would you like to skip to the next step?

Beyond healing is desire. We can go right to the part where we talk about what you want. This is where the fun begins. None of the unwanted experiences from the past need any more attention beyond what you choose to give them. All of the unwanted experiences from the past have served to sharpen your clarity about what you want for yourself now. Are you ready to move into that place?

If you accept your unconditional wholeness, then “healing” becomes irrelevant, a thing of the past. It is desire that defines your present, and your future. What kind of experience do you want to create for yourself now, as you move forward? That is the question that any therapy should be leading to, and many people who seek therapy are ready to get into that question very quickly, if given the opportunity.

The question of desire – What do you want now? What kind of life experience do you want to be creating for yourself moving forward? – leads into a joyful process of discovery, if you allow it.

Discovering your relationship to desire (to wanting… desire and wanting are synonymous) is incredibly illuminating and empowering. It might be distressing at first, to see how cut off from your own desires you have been, but this distress need not lead down the old path of lament. You can learn to pivot quickly. Rather than attending to regret or sadness or shame, you can decide to move in the direction of wanted experience.

The client I mentioned at the beginning of this writing made their choice quickly and clearly. They wanted the easy way, and we have been having a wonderful time of discovery together ever since. We sometimes reflect upon that early choice-point, upon the question I put to them, and upon the clarity of their answer. We both find great satisfaction in this story and we occasionally tell it to each other in our sessions today, appreciating the shared knowledge of having laid a path in that moment that we continue to enjoy today.

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Campbell River Marriage Counselling Justice Schanfarber

I’m a teacher, mentor, and forward-focused therapist helping people understand and befriend themselves completely. Over ten years experience serving clients worldwide. Email to request a client info package.


The World is Not Broken and Neither are You

The world is not broken and neither are you… unless you believe otherwise.

We see the world not as it is, but as we are. Or as we believe we are; belief trumps all.

Your belief is the creative force determining your life experience, your “world”.

You and I might inhabit very different worlds. In fact there are at least 8 billion different experiences of “the world” happening simultaneously right now. Many will overlap in some ways, but all are essentially distinct.

It’s OK, it’s not a problem. It’s not your job to unify or bring together, or even understand all these different experiences.

You can argue about which experience is correct and which is incorrect, you can rally support for your story of the world, and you can try to force others to believe what you believe, but it won’t work.

It won’t work because it can not bring you joy, and only your joyful existence will ultimately satisfy. The essence of who you are is joy, and your joy comes not in proving or justifying or convincing, and especially not in fixing. It can’t. You can find some satisfaction in all of these things, but they will leave a gnawing absence.

It can take some time to realize that your joy, your personal joy, the joy that is self-inspired and can only be fully appreciated by you from the inside-out, is both your deepest desire and also your true nature.

This fact, that your deepest desire is also your true nature, when it lands fully in you, will shock and delight you like nothing else. What you want most, it turns out, is what you already are.

I call it Homecoming.

You can find this Homecoming in any and all aspects of life, but I found it through struggling in relationship. It was this struggle that put me on the path of becoming a relationship therapist over twenty years ago. What a trip it’s been!

Now I’m only interested in teaching Homecoming. All of the other stuff, the techniques and strategies, it’s fine, and there are lots of people teaching it, but I’m interested in working at the leading edge, and my current leading edge is this Homecoming.

If any of this is resonant for you, check out my R3 Relationship Masterclass. You can listen to a free sample here.

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Campbell River Marriage Counselling Justice Schanfarber

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Relationship advice

The Selfish Secret to My Relationship Success

We got an awesome view of the moon on our second trip home!
Locked out and (potentially) hangry…

The other night my partner Vanessa and I pulled up to her front door only to realize that neither of us had brought a housekey. (You had the pleasure of getting to know Vanessa if you’ve listened to my R3 Relationship Masterclass).

It was a sinking feeling. We searched my van, we searched pockets and purses, and we dug through the luggage that we had brought from my house.

But I knew it was in vain. I knew the key we needed was back at my house, a full hour’s drive one way.

We each knew how the mistake had happened, and we each had our own role to play in it. A good case could have been made for blaming either or both of us.

It was nearly 9pm and now we were faced with the reality of turning around and driving for two more hours, back and forth, hungry, without dinner, to get this key that we had forgotten.

A recipe for blame and fighting

It was a perfect recipe for feelings of disappointment, or worse. It was the sort of situation that often precipitates a fight between partners, and this had certainly been the case in my own relationship history.

But not anymore, not for me.

I don’t ever turn against my partner and I don’t ever turn against myself. It doesn’t take discipline or hard work. It’s not because I’m especially empathetic or caring, or because I’m such a good communicator, or because Vanessa and I have negotiated an agreement about how we will behave with one another or speak to one another.

It’s not a product of ultimatums or understanding attachment types or love languages. It’s not complicated in any way, and I know that the essence of this ability has always been there within me waiting for my discovery and my embrace.

Purely selfish, really simple

The reason that I never turn against her or against myself is purely selfish, and really simple –

I care about how I feel. I like to feel good, and blaming myself or anyone else feels less than good. So I don’t do it.

It really is that simple.

Feeling good is my primary life objective, and I let very little get in the way of that.

When I talk about this people sometimes view me skeptically or even suspiciously. It turns out that many people are not comfortable with prioritizing feeling good, and they can sure offer a lot of justification and explanation for this!

I’ve discovered that a desire to feel good is the very best medicine for strengthening a relationship, as long I understand where my good-feeling experience actually originates. That understanding is an ongoing and endlessly satisfying process.

We want to feel good

At core, I believe that everyone wants to feel good. But a lot of people are getting the whole thing backwards. If you believe that feeling good is a product of conditions or circumstances (including other people, like your partner), you’re going to be in for a lot of trouble and a lot of hard work.

I have come to know that feeling good is a natural outcome of befriending myself completely, of never being unkind or impatient with myself, of always holding myself in nothing but positive regard, and of treating myself only with affection, care, and unconditional love.

This is the easiest and most natural thing to do, and yet it’s actually pretty rare. The idea of befriending myself fully is easy to grasp, but it took me nearly fifty years to embody the idea in a real and stable way, and it’s the actual embodiment of the idea, the day to day living of it, that makes a difference.

I’ve been working with couples as a counsellor and therapist for over a decade, and I’ve been fascinated with relationship dynamics for even longer.

I’ve explored every type of relationship theory and intervention imaginable. And all of this has brought me to a rather astounding, somewhat humorous, incredibly satisfying, and perfectly practical discovery –

My relationship is primarily defined by how I feel about myself and how I treat myself on a day to day, moment to moment basis.

I know, it seems too basic, too simple, and maybe too self-centered to be very relevant to relationships. When people want complicated explanations and interventions and “we” solutions to what seems like “we” problems in relationships, this idea of unconditional positive self-regard as the key to relationship success might seem a little far fetched.

So don’t take my word for it. Put it to the test. Treat yourself with nothing but kindness. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt always. I’m talking about your behavior and your thinking. I’m talking about the words that come out of your mouth, the stories and monologues that fill your head, the memories you choose to focus upon, and how you feel about yourself in each moment. You, like everyone, have developed some habits in these regards, but these habits can be changed, and it’s not that hard.

Give yourself the ultimate gift that you deserve

Give it a try. If you’re struggling in relationship, take a break from focusing on your partner or on the dynamic between the two of you, and give yourself the gift of unconditional love. See how it goes. See what kind of difference it makes.

Try it for a day. A week. A year. Maybe you’re ready for this.

In the moment that I became ready, I felt a clarity like nothing I’d felt before, and I never went back to self-doubt, to shame, to blame, or to feeding frustrations of any sort ever again.

I want this for you. I want it for you unconditionally. I know it is your true nature and your heart’s deepest desire. I know you are on your way to unconditional self-love, and that all roads lead to this particular Homecoming.

If you want support and encouragement from someone who knows this territory from the inside-out, listen to a free sample of my R3 Relationship Masterclass or email me and request a client package.

[Update – Vanessa has generously and skillfully shared her own telling of this story. Read on below…]

The instant I realized that Justice and I had both somehow forgotten to bring keys to my house when we left his home earlier that evening, I felt a wave of surreal disbelief. My buoyant happiness for having arrived at my home, my sense of delicious anticipation to cook dinner together, crumbled into shocked regret. There was my front door, only steps away, but we’d have to spend another two hours driving back and forth to his house to retrieve the keys before we could get inside. 

The question welled up in my mind: How could I have been so dumb? And then, almost immediately, I felt acceptance. There was no changing the situation with negative emotion. So I decided to go easy on myself. I still wanted to have a good time that night, and I felt more committed to feeling joyful than plunging into aggravation or distress. Choosing to feel good, no matter what, has become a habit for me. 

And so this silly key-less scenario, which could have blown up into stronger emotions like blame, anger, self-recrimination, shame, accusation, impatience, just mellowed out as I exhaled stunned laughter, and then let myself feel genuine amusement at the predicament. 

How bizarre! For over a year now, we’ve divided our time between our two homes, and usually we both carry copies of each other’s key. We’re smart and attentive people. But by some ridiculous and actually unfathomable turn of events, we’d locked ourselves out without realizing it. 

We laughed at ourselves on the drive back. We made jokes, told stories we hadn’t shared before, listened to music, and appreciated how much better it was to feel good than getting upset with ourselves or each other. 

Before this turn of events, I had been looking forward to watching the full moonrise that night over the ocean from my beach house. We had spread my parents’ ashes there less than a year before, under a full moon rise, following my mother’s final wishes, and so watching the moonrise there is always special for me. Now, instead of beholding this May Flower Moon from the deck together, we were on the road again. But after we’d picked up the keys and turned the car back towards my house, we gasped with delight when we saw the glorious full moon rise above the treeline over the highway. For most of our return journey, the full moon hung magically in our field of vision, right above the road, like a beautiful peaceful beacon guiding us back to our destination. Everything is always working out.

I was reminded of a previous key-error episode in my life, with a former partner, which had gone so differently. In that experience, 12 years earlier, my ex-partner and I were visiting a small community on a remote island when he locked my car keys in my car, at the far end of a dirt road, in a wilderness park. It was Sunday. No cell service. I was furious. I stormed ahead of him, raging and complaining, as we had to walk for over an hour to the other side of the island to ask for help at the only place that was open, a First Nations museum and cultural centre. We’d been there earlier in the day to see sacred Potlatch regalia, which had been confiscated by the Canadian government in 1921, when our country still outlawed these dances and ceremonies. (In fact, my great grandfather was the Christian missionary involved in this notorious colonial raid, so my emotions that day were already very strong.) When we finally arrived, I swallowed my righteous anger at my ex, pushed down my humiliated sense of stupidity and guilt, and asked the kind woman at the front desk for help breaking into my locked car. It was closing time, so she phoned her friends, then drove us back to my car, where the three locals used a bent coat hanger to quickly jimmy open my driver’s side door. I thanked them profusely. They refused money but offered us salmon. The woman told me, “Now you will never forget the beauty and generosity of our island.”

That experience has always stayed with me as a reminder that there is never any point in getting angry at myself, or anyone else, because I’d regret it later, and I don’t ever want to blind myself to the beauty and generosity of life. 

And so, when Justice and I finally got back to my house that night after our drive under the full moon, we had a wonderful fun time preparing our long awaited meal, played cards, and ate dinner at midnight with moonlight bathing the beach out front in a gentle glow, appreciating the beauty and generosity of life.  

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Campbell River Marriage Counselling Justice Schanfarber

I’m a teacher, mentor, and forward-focused therapist helping people understand and befriend themselves completely. Over ten years experience serving clients worldwide. Email to request a client info package.