Sanctuary Counseling, LLC.
Douglassville: 610.385.3155 Audubon: 610.850.8009

What’s the Greater Risk?

We are often taught to see acceptance as a catch-22, perhaps because our exposure to this word typically occurs in relation to others. We are taught that belonging is more important than self-acceptance, an implicit and yet powerful message that impacts the value we place on our individuality. Regardless of our age or origin, we are all categorically placed into either ‘influencer’ or ‘influenced’, placing extraordinarily high pressure on us to fit in if we can’t stand out in the ‘right’ ways.

Acceptance is also peculiar in that it can be feigned, providing a false sense of confidence and support in a situation where there is very little. Becoming accustomed to this brand of acceptance is easy as it is truly all around us. Molds and guides await us on every platform, website, and media outlet offering a seemingly harmless escape from facing and crafting our own lives. Only, these molds and guides are inconsistent, contrived, and formulated to be just beyond our reach. Defeated by these expectations we may feel empty – questioning who we really are and whether or not we are good enough. Where do I start when I feel so disconnected? I’ve lost so much time, will I ever feel like me?

While uncomfortable, the times in our lives that we are thinking this way have enormous potential. Opening to this inner voice that is challenging us to find a different way to express ourselves and interact with this world expands our minds and helps us cultivate a renewed sense of possibility – a revolution of self. We have the power to challenge our understanding of acceptance and self-acceptance to be more complementary instead of adversarial. We already know that shallow acceptance can be achieved, but true acceptance and belonging requires more of us. We must be willing to explore our own potential and differentiate from the group in order to figure out where we belong.

Committing to this journey helps us honor the aspects of ourselves that make us wonderfully unique and celebrate the same in others. When we accept ourselves we are better able to help others do the same, initiating relationships grounded in true belonging. Living from a place of self-love equips us to value alone time without feeling lonely and time with others as profound and not simply distraction.

We welcome you to start this therapeutic journey with us on Nov. 9th, 10th, and 11th. On these days, we are holding the Lanterns and Labyrinths Fall 2018 Retreat for those who feel called to revolutionize the way they relate to themselves and those around them. As part of our weekend retreat, we will explore what it means to be vulnerable, to show up in our lives with courage, and what wholehearted living can look like. We will experience expressive arts together. We will share meals together. We will make meaningful connections with others and especially with our own selves and our own stories.

This three-day retreat explores The Daring Way™, a highly experiential methodology based on the research of Dr. Brené Brown. During the process, we will explore topics such as vulnerability, courage, shame, and worthiness. We will go deep to examine the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that are holding us back and identify the new choices and practices that will move us toward more authentic and wholehearted living. The primary focus is on developing shame resilience skills and developing daily practices that transform the way we live, love, parent, and lead.

Register online today at sanctuarycounseling.com! If you have any questions or concerns, please call us at 610-385-3155.

Fantasy and Dreams Don’t Die After Childhood: the Nature of Expressive Arts

When people ask me to explain how play therapy for children is supposed to be similar to talk therapy for adults, I find myself drawn to explain how intuition develops with age. Do you remember nostalgic days of recess playgrounds and backyard pretend? When kids are roleplaying superheroes or re-enacting scenes from their favorite movies, it’s easy to say as an adult “wow my kid really wants to be like Elsa”, when it’s more accurate to say “right now, they are Elsa”. If you’ve ever acted in a theater class or have watched a play, you probably already know about suspension of disbelief. It’s the point where we can “turn off” being analytical to just stay in the present and bear witness to something very human. That state of mind is what I’m confident is to say is a human need, if not the beating heart of the humanities.

Kids live in that world. The purpose of play therapy is to basically give fresh canvases to people who are basically spinning engines (sometimes literally) of art and creativity. My role as a therapist here, is to step more into being the narrator or the audience beholding some new work, and to reflect back what we see from the young artist in the room. And yes, this also totally happens during board games. Sometimes, I bear witness to kids sabotaging a board game so they don’t win, because they don’t want the game to end (“I want everything to be fair! All the time! Forever!”). Sometimes, I bear witness to a tea party where the poor host is getting burnt out trying to serve tea to someone who snubs them ruthlessly (“If I do this for her, then maybe she’ll notice me, someday…”). Sometimes, I witness royalty build the castle walls higher and higher, hoping to both fortify a tower so mighty only to recognize if they move slightly the pillows they’ve used will cause their fortress to crumble (“I need to be safe! It’s too uncomfortable out there!!”). Each of these is a conversation, and sometimes my role is to bear witness to it in enough ways that we can notice more of the story happening live, together.

This process is identical when I work with adults who are creative. I’m always eager to see people’s sketchbooks if they are willing to invite me into bearing witness to it. Sometimes, motifs and patterns emerge visually. Someone who draws the mysterious character whose left eye can never be seen. Someone who finds themselves drawn to always include red-violet somewhere in their work. Someone who would punch clay to make a mold of their fist to then fire it and then adorn it with floral patterns. The goal is the same. We live in this world to make meaning, somewhere. Some meanings are more obvious than others, but the journey of having the conversation together as artist and audience is what makes these forms of art expressive art.

All of this I believe pays greater service to how we nurture intuition. I can only speak to this rooted in the context of the time of this writing, but culturally the more we value what is directly measureable, the more we feel drawn to “prove”. I think this grinds against some of the deeper value of the work. Therapeutically when we have to access intuition, the purpose isn’t to immediately “fix” something. What is there to fix? The art and expression above already exist in the world. In these moments, it’s more about bearing witness or companioning the work to honor it, or being the keeper of a story.

Whether as an adult or child, the way we express ourselves deserves to be honored and heard. Ultimately, it’s a human need that, when met, allows us to reflect and become something more. And to be candid, takes a big leap of trust! That’s why a lot of our most important depth thoughts about ourselves, or works-in-progress, are rightfully worth protecting while they sleep.

I also don’t think the conversation necessarily stops here! If this resonated, I’d love to hear what came up for you. I can be reached at timothy@sanctuarycounseling.com.

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