It seems that in the last couple of weeks I must have heard at least half a dozen times someone remark about how fast the year is going by. It’s nearly October. Years move fast. Months move fast. Days move even faster. In fact it can seem as if all of modern life moves at a lightening pace. And we often strive for this quickness. The faster internet connection. The fastest car.
Life moves quickly. So it feels good to have some moments of rest, of slowing down. It’s not surprising that it seems so many people these days are meditating, doing yoga, going for walks. It feels like a matter of survival to have some quiet time and slower pace.
And psychotherapy does just that. We slow down in therapy. In order to contemplate, to reflect, we have to slow down. Sometimes just to think requires some stillness, some peace of mind. It’s difficult to be on the run and take account of one’s life.
I have no idea if it is true, but some years ago I heard someone make a startling remark about physics. That person said that in the spinning of a wheel – a car tire, a train wheel on the track – there is actually some infinitesimally small moment that the wheel stops. That this stopping – some millionth of a microsecond – is needed for traction. That it is in this stopping that the wheel holds to the road or track.
I like to think of psychotherapy as that stopping place. That foothold and stopping place in order to take account, along with another person and thus not by oneself, of one’s life, what’s good and rewarding, what is troubling and stressful.
So it is not uncommon in a session for me to suggest to my client that he or she slow down. That we slow down together. That we stay with something he or she has said or felt; that we linger a little longer. By doing this, I am usually inviting the client to see what arises – to see what other thoughts, what other feelings, emerge. Sometimes, of course, this process can be painful – difficult feelings or thoughts come to the surface. But in this way, clients gain fuller access to themselves, to their feelings and to their thoughts.
Of course, there are many jokes about how slow the pace of psychotherapy can be. One need only to think of Woody Allen. And while there is some truth to these jokes, maybe the pace of therapy is one of the salutary aspects of it. It provides one experience in a person’s life for this slowing down. And given the great speed of everything else, that slowing down can feel like a refreshing and rewarding break.