Finding Meaning in Healing | Center for Growth Therapy

Finding Meaning in Healing: Therapy Philadelphia Ocean City Mechanicsville

Lucia , MA — Intern therapist

Finding Meaning in Healing : Your Healing Journey

You may be here, reading “Finding Meaning in Healing”, and or be in therapy, because something is just off. You may feel stuck, lost, impatient, worried, or a myriad of other not so great feelings but are not sure of the source. Perhaps the way you speak about and to yourself is no longer working for you. Perhaps the things and people in your life that once made you feel fulfilled are now leaving you with a sense of lack. Something has changed, but what?

As we grow and move through the natural stages of life, we change. Our circumstances change, our knowledge and wisdom grows, and our body changes. Every year, about 98% of our atoms are replaced with new ones and about every 10 years our skeletal system completely regenerates. It is almost like we have become completely new people, but do we live that way?

As we change, our strategies and coping mechanisms we once used also need to change…but we have become so comfortable with them. It took you a lot of conscious (and unconscious) work to develop all the strategies you use to be here, right now, where you are today. To have survived all you’ve survived AND to thrive. You might not be where you want to be, and you might not even think you were thriving along the way, but you are here and that matters. So now what? Consider it might be time for finding meaning in healing (i.e. for a change in your approach to life, or perhaps an existential transformation).

The Source of Anxiety as a Part of the Healing Journey

Existential psychotherapy argues that an individual’s conscious and subconscious fear of death, freedom, isolation, and meaning activates certain defense mechanisms. These defense mechanisms can be adaptive/helpful or maladaptive/unhelpful. Defense mechanisms keep you safe AND they can restrict your growth and depth of your experiences. Anxiety becomes the fuel of psychopathology when it causes suffering as opposed to gentle motivation to support you in reaching your goals. The content of existential conflicts arise from the individual's confrontation with the realities of death, freedom, isolation, and meaning.

Living your authentic life in the face of the realities of life is the ultimate goal of existential psychotherapy. Authenticity is knowing your true self and living and being in accordance with it. Your fears and maladaptive defense mechanisms are like the dirt on a mirror. The dirt prevents you from seeing your true and full self reflected. The dirt distorts what you see and dulls the light and brightness of your reflection. Existential psychotherapy is the slow process and practice of cleaning the mirror. A constant maintenance of self and being in the face of death, the profound power of your freedom, your ultimate isolation, and how you make meaning in a meaningless world.

Death as Part of the Healing Journey

If therapy is about instilling hope, why do we need to talk about death? Death is considered a primordial source of anxiety. While death may end our time here physically, the idea of death can also support us in our growth. How can acknowledging your mortality, as opposed to ignoring it, support you in living your most authentic life? By encouraging you to live. The meaning of life is life itself. For some, knowing that this life is fleeting generates perspective and gratitude. In this way, accepting that all things end can open your eyes to all that is possible in your life.

The clinical manifestations of death anxiety are the development of denial based defense mechanisms. Repression, displacement, and rationalization are all ways to protect ourselves through denial. Repression is when you consciously or unconsciously block out your feelings. Displacement is transferring your negative feelings to another person or thing. Rationalization is justifying or validating your negative or unhelpful feelings or behaviors in what feels like a logical way. If you are experiencing any of these defense mechanisms, remember, they protected you at one point in your life. Yet consider, are these defense mechanisms still protecting you or are they holding you back from living your fullest life?

Freedom as Part of the Healing Journey

The responsibility of being free is a fundamental existential concern. True and authentic freedom is accepting responsibility for who we are and what we do. When we were babies, other people had to make choices for us because we were unable to care for ourselves. As we develop our agency and become ourselves, this shifts. Consider, you have the ability to do whatever you want, as long as you are willing to accept the consequences. Sometimes those consequences are too high of a price to pay or you are not ready yet, and that is ok. But sometimes, those consequences feel big because they are simply out of your comfort zone, and if you accept them, your whole life could open up.

The clinical manifestations of the avoidance of freedom and responsibility are extreme guilt and or indecision. Guilt in an existential psychotherapy is not a result of a “bad” choice or action but a refusal to make a new choice or take a new action. This guilt manifests itself not because you did something to someone else or against a social norm, but because you consciously or unconsciously know you are living in a way that is holding you back from your fullest possibility and potentiality.

Decisions are the step you need to take to turn a want or need into a reality. With decision comes great responsibility. Sometimes it is easier to have someone else make the decision or give you the answer. But sometimes, indecision keeps you stuck in unhealthy relationships, jobs, behavioral patterns…the list can go on and on. The process of becoming requires difficult choices because change can be difficult. Yet consider, while there is a cost to making a decision, what is the cost of not making it?

Isolation as Part of the Healing Journey

In existential psychotherapy, the individual is considered ultimately alone. While this concept doesn’t fully translate across cultures, I find it helpful to think in terms of what is required in the process of becoming your authentic self. Self-creation and self-realization require a period of deep loneliness and isolation. Inherent in the act of becoming your authentic self is going inward as an access to express your authentic self outward into the world.

The clinical manifestation of existential isolation is the development of our attachment patterns. If you struggle to affirm or love yourself, you might seek affirmation, love, and support from others. There is nothing inherently wrong or bad with seeking support, love, and affirmation. Yet if your main motivation to engage with others is to fend off loneliness or isolation, then the other transforms into equipment. People begin to serve a function and our attachments become anxious and avoidant. The struggle then is not that you are unlovable, but that you don’t know how to connect through love.

This is where the concept of existential isolation gets tricky, because learning how to give and receive love is learned in the family and social systems we grow up in. Your attachment patterns are learned by what was modeled to you. Remember, your attachment and behavior patterns served you. You are here today because of all the coping mechanisms you learned along the way. More importantly, humans are resilient and have the power to change. Love is an attitude and a practice you can choose. A good place to start is to consider if you enjoy being alone with yourself and your thoughts, and if not, what shifts can you make to enjoy your own company a little more, if even for a few minutes?

Meaning as Part of the Healing Journey

Life is inherently meaningless. Our human brains cannot understand the sheer chaos of it all, so we make things have meaning. When we understand something, we can control it. We develop languages, we make categories and guidelines, we create poetry and art to break down the meaning and then rebuild it. In our meaning we develop a structure for us to grow and engage in this world. Yet at the end of the day, the meaning that exists is because we created it. Therefore we have the power to change it.

The clinical manifestation of meaninglessness are feelings of lacking purpose, direction, or belonging. These feelings often manifest in times of significant change or disruptions. The meaning you once made, that supported you before this life event, served and protected you. But now this meaning may no longer serve you. This may be the time for you to develop new meaning, new purpose, and new ways to connect with others and exist in this world. You are always changing and you are not the same person that you were last year. Therefore, I invite you to consider how the meaning you made about your life is holding you back or moving you forward in your journey of healing and becoming?

What’s Next in your Healing Journey

Are you interested in learning more about how existential themes are impacting your mental health and finding meaning in healing? Then schedule an appointment with me or another one of the skilled and knowledgeable Center for Growth therapists. You can self schedule an in-person or virtual individual or couples therapy session or by calling the Center for Growth at (215) 922-5683 x 100.

For your convenience we have 5 physical therapy and counseling offices and provide virtual therapy services in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Mexico and Virginia.


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Computer Generated Answer:

Finding Meaning in Healing:

Healing can have different meanings for different people, but generally it refers to the process of becoming whole and restoring balance to one's physical, emotional, and/or spiritual well-being. Finding meaning in healing may involve understanding the root cause of an ailment, connecting with one's inner self, and finding a sense of purpose or hope in the journey towards recovery. It may also involve seeking support and guidance from loved ones, healthcare professionals, and/or spiritual or community leaders. Ultimately, the meaning of healing is a personal and unique experience.

Working with a mental health therapist:

Working with a mental health therapist can be a valuable experience for individuals who are struggling with mental health issues or seeking personal growth. A therapist can provide a safe and confidential space to explore thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and help individuals develop coping strategies and problem-solving skills.

The therapist will typically use a variety of techniques, such as talk therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or other evidence-based approaches, to help individuals understand and change negative patterns of thinking and behavior. They may also help individuals set goals and develop a plan to achieve them.

It is important to note that therapy is a collaborative process, so it is important to find a therapist who is a good fit for you and your needs. It can take time to build trust and establish a therapeutic relationship, but with the right therapist, individuals can work through difficult experiences and make positive changes in their life.

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