One of the most tantalizing, but rewarding experiences in life is being introduced to the game of golf. It’s a game you can never perfect, even though it seems so simple! For me anyway, it’s full of hooks, slices, hazards, penalty shots, misses, good and bad luck, disappointments, and occasional bliss. The experience of golf can go from a soul-wrenching funk to uncontrollable laughter. Most golfers would tell you that the mental and emotional part of the game is more challenging than the physical one. Yet, there always seems to be something (a made putt, a great drive, enjoyable company) that keeps me coming back.
What clients experience in a therapy office is similar to the golf course: set-backs, frustration, loss, anger, sadness, disappointment, stress, and conflict (to only mention a few). Like in golf, there are a few rewarding moments of insight and emotion that keep clients coming back to the dreaded couch.
Therapy is a process of expanding and stretching, both mentally and emotionally. It’s a challenging experience. Like golf, it is hard. Almost everything about it is hard: setting the appointment, paying money, facing the emotions, feeling uncertainty, and sometimes even wishing you weren’t there in the first place. It reminds me of one of my favorite movie quotes from A League of Their Own, said brilliantly by Tom Hanks, portraying Jimmy Dugan. He is referring to baseball, but I would generalize it to therapy, or any other difficult task: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
Because of the difficult nature of therapy, intense emotion is a part of the game. Even though “there’s no crying in baseball,” it’s definitely allowed in therapy! In fact, we tend to have a CostCo supply of tissues in our office. You can also rest assured that a therapist will respond with empathy and understanding–not like a drunken, critical baseball manager!
Even though I sometimes wish they were, golf and therapy are not easy. They aren’t supposed to be. We find meaning and strength amidst difficulty. It may feel like we are trying to roll a large stone up an impossibly steep mountain, but that very process makes us stronger. Almost anything that has meaning is difficult. That’s what leads us to great, but challenging undertakings: We want to see what we are capable of. I continue to be amazed by what people are capable of.