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The Mechanics of Therapy

My father worked as a mechanic; he spent the majority of his time fixing or building one thing or another. He had a remarkable gift for seeing the hidden potential in things. I learned a great deal from him about the art of repurposing things. How to keep the good pieces of something and replace the parts that are no longer working. The more I think about him, the more I realize that many of the skills I have acquired are the result of the things he taught me. He passed away when I was nineteen years old, his life and his death helped shape me into the person I am today. I can see how the work he did is relevant to the work I do as a counselling therapist. Much of what I learned from him is lived out through my work.

My Dad was a great listener, which is not an easy skill to attain, it seems like it should be but in reality, it is not. Many people spend their time in conversations waiting for their turn to talk. When my father needed to diagnose an issue with a vehicle the first thing that he would do was turn the engine on (God willing) and listen to it. When I work with clients, I listen to the entire message that they are conveying, I hear what are they saying beneath their words. I get at their deeper underlying beliefs and values. Having your thoughts and feelings heard can be extremely powerful and cathartic.

There have been times while driving during Nova Scotia’s winter when I could not see through the snow on my windshield. It was terrifying because I could not clearly differentiate what was what in front of me. Thankfully inch by inch I got to where I wanted to go. Life is like that; most of the time we can’t imagine how the future will be better than the present situation. If you don’t decide how you want your future to be better, chances are it won’t be. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said “You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Goals are critical in giving our lives direction. You can’t get to where you want to go until you decide where that is. Otherwise, you are just giving the car gas, not steering and hoping that you end up where you want to go.

Motor oil lubricates the engine of a vehicle while also taking away harmful debris. Like vehicles not everyone needs the same type of oil to keep them running properly. For some this system recharge comes in the form of quiet time, reading, meditating, praying, journaling, fixing things, creating, beaching, exercising, talking, cleaning, spending time in nature, painting, fishing, practicing gratitude or whatever it is that fills your tank. No one else is going to do the things that take care of you but you. The key is not just learning what fills your tank but in the act of making the time to do these things. As the primary caregiver of a one and a half year-old and three year-old, who is starting a business around her spouse’s schedule; I can relate to the struggle of making time for these things. We need to do the things that rejuvenate us if we want our motor to work effectively. It is important to have some sort of practice in your life that helps to restore and rebalance your system.

Negative people are like a hole in your gas tank. These types of people have an incredible ability to drain you of your energy. At some point you have to seriously ask yourself are the people in your life filling your tank or emptying it? Do you feel better after spending time with them or worse? Rumi once said “Seek those who fan your flames.” Your real friends give you hope; they do not take it from you. Make it a point to spend your time with people who build you up, stay away from those who tear you down, in whichever manner they choose; that alone will make a world of difference. Toxic people are everywhere and they often masquerade as being caring and supportive. “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too can become great” said the infamous Mark Twain. There is absolutely nothing that you can do to appease these types of people, they always need more from you to fill their tank. The hard truth is that you will never get to where you want to go in life until you fix the holes in your gas tank.

Everyone’s car has some damage to it. There is no way around it on this bumpy road called life. There are many unseen twists and turns in the journey. It is critical that all of us take the time to tune into our feelings; to change what isn’t working in our lives, and to be grateful for what is. To appreciate where we are in life, and to decide where it is that we would like to go. Sometimes the slightest adjustments have the biggest impact. Don’t forget to take some time to check out the world around you and enjoy the ride. This drive will come to an end at some point. As Hans Christian Andersen once said, “enjoy life, there’s plenty of time to be dead.” Speak your truth, have faith that the future will be better and focus on the good in this moment. As my father often reminded me, see your glass as half full, not half empty. Perception is at least half the battle my friends; and you can change yours at any time. Hope is the most powerful tool in any toolbox. “No matter how long the storm last, the sun always shines behind the clouds” Khalil Gibran. Remember the sun is still shining, even when we haven’t seen it in a long time. The hardest times, are followed by the best of times. It is darkest before the dawn, and things fall apart, before they fall together.

No one is going to deal with the feelings, goals, thoughts, belief system, past traumas, broken relationships or whatnot in your life but you. The harder something is to address, the bigger the emotional payoff. Potential is an incredible thing. The more that we learn to care for ourselves mind, body and spirit the smoother our engines will run. The process of building self esteem is life long, and self improvement takes time. Hard times bring growth as well as the possibility for positive change. Sometimes the fixes are simple and easy to make, sometimes they require a bit more time and effort to correct. Having a good therapist, like a good mechanic can be helpful in diagnosing and correcting issues. My father would have said if your car breaks down take the opportunity to rebuild it better than it was before; which are my sentiments exactly.

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