There is only one reason anyone initially goes into therapy – they sense that something is amiss in their lives. They feel that they are not living up to their potential or perhaps there is a particular relationship or issue that seems to be standing in the way of their happiness or well-being. Often clients come in talking about one issue and then we realize together that there is something deeper that needs our attention.
I have often thought that this process is rather like unwinding a knotted thread. As we undo the knots – which can be likened to knots or complexes in the psyche – we find out where the thread wants to lead us. The thread is like the soul’s imperative – its urgent calling. I believe that each of us has a deep soul imprint that we come into the world with, and that imprint carries our purpose for this lifetime. All of us need to figure that out for ourselves – what is it that we are supposed to be doing in this lifetime, in this body and this personality? Why are we here? What do we need to do, address, accomplish, to give our lives meaning and purpose? Very often, people will follow the dictates and ‘shoulds’ that they have absorbed from the collective or from their parents or schooling, and wind up feeling that they missed the boat, regardless of how much money they are making. There is a soulless feeling of emptiness and the haunting question of ‘Is this it?’ They have never dared to really live their dream or fulfill their life purpose.
In the myth of Theseus and Ariadne, Theseus is the hero figure who has volunteered to kill the raging minotaur that required the flesh of 7 young men and 7 young women every year to prevent the city from being terrorized. Theseus hated this ongoing human sacrifice and volunteered to go into the minotaur’s cave which happens to be very deep and labyrinthine. Ariadne, who was the king’s daughter, and in this case a soul figure for Theseus, tells him that the only way he can safely do this is to take the thread that she will hold, waiting outside the cave. As he unwinds the thread, descending ever deeper into the cave, he tracks his passage, allowing for a safe descent and then return. She trusts that he will be able to slay the minotaur when he encounters it, and then he will be able to find his way back. Theseus does as she directs, and he is able to return, having conquered a monumental problem, becoming the hero and saviour of the city of Athens.
I have often felt that this was a beautiful metaphor for dealing with life’s problems. We have to descend into the gritty depths of the issue, deal with it in an honourable way, and then find our way back into life, recharged and revitalized. Like Theseus we need to have contact with our own deep soul purpose – in his case personified by Ariadne. It is for each of us to do this inner work, in our own way, so that we can follow our soul’s guidance and fulfill our life purpose. We need to address what stands in the way of our happiness. For many people, being in therapy is like having a companion that can guide them in their descent as they tackle their problems, which then allows them to find a way safely back into a more fulfilled life.