It’s very hard to describe the therapeutic process sometimes. It means different things for different people. For some, it’s about getting help with a specific problem. In these cases symptom reduction is the aim and ultimately “success” in therapy is measured in terms of whether clients actually feel better. For others, it’s about exploring and understanding their relationship patterns. But whatever people come to therapy for, I can tell you that ultimately the work of a therapist is about helping the client to discover previously unaccessed parts of him- or herself. Basically all therapeutic work leads to self-discovery and at best it results in greater consciousness.

Now consciousness is a bit of a tricky topic. What does it mean? Can concepts such as unconscious and conscious be used in a kind of binary way, as if you can switch “it” on and off? Definitely in terms of Freud’s original conceptualisation, this is not how it was intended to be understood. But the bottom line is, therapy will make you more conscious. It will aid in giving you greater self-awareness and will bring things to conscious awareness. You will also become aware of the mechanisms you use to ward off unpleasant experiences (memories and emotions) such as defense mechanisms and substances that keep you “numbed”.

This all sounds good right. Well, maybe not allllllll good.

You may think that transformation, enlightenment, consciousness, etc. is for everyone but in actual fact there can be some pretty undesirable side effects. This following is part in jest but still 100% true. Remember to always read the fine print!

Side Effects of becoming more conscious include:

  • Becoming  acutely aware of your internal states. This includes unpleasant states such as tiredness, stress, etc. Because of newly-gained awareness and a reduction in the use of defense mechanisms you will be less inclined to push through the unpleasant experiences and will actually experience them more!
  • You will like yourself more. This sounds great but enjoying your own company means finding others less interesting at times. This may cause alienation from your peer group as social situations are often used to avoid certain realities or as a collective attempt at denial.
  • You will feel. And feel it all. Sadness, anger, loss, fear, shame. You will identify these emotions better and therefore will become more aware of their existence in your life. Be ready to be described as “sensitive” or “moody”.
  • You will struggle to tolerate bullshit. Gone are the days of allowing people to walk all over you, push past your boundaries or abuse your kindness. Your bullshit detector will automatically be better attuned. Your ability to let that nonsense fly will be greatly reduced. This means that you’ll probably lose friends and connections. You’ll be better for it in the end but the middle part might suck.
  • You can’t lie to yourself. This is part of it. You become better attuned to yourself and therefore will not be able to fool yourself into believing that you’re happy when you’re not. Staying in that torturous job will get harder too. And don’t even get me started on trying to fake appreciating bad art! Okay that last one was a joke 😉

Of course, it’s not all bad either. Together with these side effects there are a whole lot of benefits like the ones I wrote about here. Therapy or any other form of self improvement is not necessarily going to be easy. And there maybe many parts that feel shitty but it’s a choice and for some of us it’s one we would make every time no matter what the consequences.

What do you think? Would you add any side effects to this list? What has the journey to greater consciousness been like for you?

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