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  • Writer's pictureRoxy Humphrey

A metaphor for what happens in therapy from the mountains

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

I recently went on a backpacking trip that was rather challenging for me - a friend and I hiked to the top of Mount Myra in Strathcona park, which has an elevation gain of 1800m. The hike was steep and I was very aware of my recovering shoulder injury and my limited balance as a result of breaking my ankle years ago. I was carrying a heavy load and I was conscious of my wounds.

While on our way up, we were warned that there would be a few “tricky bits” near to the top. And there sure were! At one point, my hiking partner Annie climbed up a section that, once I got to it myself, I discovered required both my shoulder strength and my balance. It required me to engage the wounded parts of my body.

So…I froze. I became overwhelmed in panic and I lay myself against the rock feeling stuck. I believe I said “I can’t do this. I don’t think I can do this.” Eventually, I asked Annie to offer me her perspective: “Is this my perception of danger or is this really dangerous?”

Annie replied calmly, as she looked down at me smeared against the rock. “Well, it’s a little dangerous, but mostly it’s your perception. I think you can do this.” Annie was able to witness what was happening inside of me, with all my anxieties and emotions, and express her belief in me. As a result, it helped me get a bit of distance from my panic and then take one small step after another. Eventually I climbed my way out of that section.

A few minutes later, we encountered an even harder section that also required balance and shoulder strength. This time, I didn’t even pause. I breezed through the section without hindrance.

Oftentimes people experience challenging emotions in therapy, emotions that also show up and keep them frozen in other areas of their lives. As we explore certain aspects of a person’s life, they sometimes need to engage the wounded parts of themselves and this can cause all sorts of anxieties to emerge (rightly so). As a therapist, it is my job to witness and validate the experience, but also to express belief in a person’s capacity to engage with their wounded parts in order to move themselves out of being stuck. This experience of engaging one's vulnerabilities and moving out of stuckness in the therapy room then creates the possibility that it can be replicated in other domains of a person’s life. The neural pathways get created, which means that one might even breeze through tricky sections as they show up in their lives without as much hindrance.

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Karin Boisclair-Joly
Karin Boisclair-Joly
29 באוג׳ 2023

This!! Thank you for posting this, Roxy. A wonderful cross-disciplinary metaphor (says an RMT) : )

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