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.

Counselling Articles Sex and Relationship Advice

What is a “Successful Relationship”? How Do You Make a Relationship Succeed?

Successful Relationship

What makes a relationship successful?

Fundamentally, a successful relationship is a relationship that feels mostly good, most of the time. That’s it. Simple right? So how do you make a relationship that feels mostly good, most of the time?

How do you make successful relationship?

1. Figure out how to feel mostly good, most of the time.

2. Bring that to the relationship.

Again, simple, yes? So what trips people up? Here’s where it gets interesting!

“I’m OK if you’re OK”

Many people look to their relationship (to their partner) as their source of feeling good. If this is you, then you have probably attracted a partner who also does the same, though perhaps in a different style from you.

This leaves you in a position of having to negotiate feeling good between you, i.e., “I’m OK if you’re OK”. If you’re accustomed to this style of relationship (many people are, it is modeled and promoted as “normal”) it can be hard to imagine an alternative, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that a wonderful alternative exists.

The key is to realize that your feelings can be generated from within you regardless of your circumstances or outer “reality”, including your partner.

Since I discovered the truth of this, I could no longer continue working with clients the way I had been.

A new kind of couples work

I’ve been a couples therapist and marriage counsellor for fifteen years. I love my work, and I love my clients.

I love my work and my clients so much that when I discover a better way to do relationships, I have to update my methods and professional approach. I won’t rest on my laurels and teach something that people want to hear but that is no longer resonant for me.

And so I have changed how I work. Not entirely; I had emphasized individual responsibility and emotional differentiation (what I now call “self-satisfaction”) rather than partner negotiation and emotional enmeshment for many years, but my discoveries of the past two years have taken this to a new level of clarity.

I no longer see relationships through the lens of meeting emotional needs, resolving issues, healing wounds, trauma, attachment styles or anything else that puts emotional power and responsibility into collective hands.

I increasingly view relationships through the lens of two individuals discovering themselves in front of each other, and exploring the ever-shifting resonance between them. This is so much more easeful, fun, and interesting!

The third factor: Source

Conventional couples therapy often includes a theoretical “third” element: The relationship itself. There are the two individuals, then there’s the relationship, and all three elements get equal consideration. I do not subscribe to this model, but I do include a special third factor –

Each of us, I now recognize, comes from eternal, non-physical, infinite source energy, and each of us maintains this connection to source energy throughout our lives. This connection to our source is, must be, our primary relationship if we are to reach our full emotional potential.

When the physical (“ego”) aspect of you is in harmony with the energy (“spiritual”) aspect of you, you experience this as positive emotion. When these two aspects are at odds, or misaligned, you experience this as negative emotion.

Our relationship with a partner or spouse is determined by our relationship to source energy, and our relationship with source energy feels only good.

Contemporary psychology replaces source energy with “mother” or caregiver, placing this at the centre of the human journey. I won’t offer any resistance to this point of view, but I will offer an alternative that I believe is infinitely more satisfying.

Setting off on a relationship journey that has you trying to heal a “mother wound” or an attachment need from childhood can provide much richness and some fascinating twists and turns, but unless it ultimately connects you to your true source, it’s actually quite limited. I’ve always been a seeker of the deeper truth, and it lies in the relationship between the temporal you and the eternal you. Get that lined up, and everything follows.

How’s that landing? Any resonance?

Now back to the original question…

Let’s circle back to the question I asked at the top of the page: What’s the secret to a successful relationship?

And the answer I offered: Figure out how to feel mostly good, most of the time.

Now let’s tie this all together –

The way you feel mostly good, most of the time, is to get yourself living in alignment with your source, to get the human “you” befriending and loving the infinite “you”, not as a concept but as a living truth; not once and for all, but now, and now, and now. When you connect with your deepest essence, you feel good, unconditionally, and your relationships become an easy reflection of this good-feeling connection.

So how do you do this? Hint: incrementally, through your understanding and skillful use of the three human operating systems: sensation (body), emotion (heart), and cognition (mind).

Yes, my friends, this is where fifty years of living and fifteen years of working with couples professionally has landed me. I know it’s going to be too far out for some of you, but I know it’s also going to be VERY resonant and timely for some of you too.

All My Best,

Justice Schanfarber

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Counselling Articles Sex and Relationship Advice

Your entire experience is all logical, all valid, all understandable… what now?

Where you find yourself right now – your circumstances, your personality, your thoughts and beliefs, your feelings and emotions, your patterns of relating to yourself and others… all of it – makes perfect sense.

There is a perfect logic to who you are. It is an indisputable logic. And the same is true for every person on the planet (including your partner), which is kind of weird, because they might believe things that seem opposite to what you believe.

The point is, you don’t have to argue for who you are, good parts (wanted, by you) or bad parts (unwanted, by you). And you don’t have to argue with others about who they are.

When a new client or client couple begins working with me, they often come with an initial expectation that they need to make a case, sometimes an elaborate case, for why they are where they are: why they believe what they believe, why they’re stuck where they’re stuck, and especially why they feel how they feel. They expect that it is necessary for them to create or understand elaborate webs of connection between their past experience and their present experience, and they sometimes seem to expect that I will be judging them or rating their proficiency, or that my job is to help them vivify this web of connection between past and present experiences.

I actually approach each new client, and indeed each new conversation, with the assumption that there are excellent reasons for feeling the way you feel. There’s a perfect logic to it. We actually need to spend virtually no time down that path.

What I want to know is not how do you feel and how did you come to feel this way, but rather, how do you WANT to feel, and how do we move you in that direction now. So rather than building evidence to support a case that is a foregone conclusion I encourage you to jump as quickly as possible to the part where you get clear about what you want. Your entire experience is all logical, all valid, all understandable… what now?

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Like what you’re reading here?
You’ll love my book.
Read the first 10 pages free.

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Campbell River Marriage Counselling Justice Schanfarber

Trying to grow, fix, change, understand or save your marriage? I provide couples therapy, marriage counselling, coaching and mentoring to individuals and couples on the issues that make or break relationships – Sessions by telephone/skype worldwide. Email to request a client info package.

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