Speaking on the subject of recurring psychological struggles, Carl Jung once noted that, “we don’t solve our problems, we outgrow them.” If this is true, then therapy is really about helping people to grow and, eventually, to outgrow certain issues or unhelpful life patterns. But what, exactly, does it mean to outgrow something?
Growth is a process of ordered development. It is the spontaneous impulse and movement of a unique life force towards self-expression. For example, given the right conditions an acorn will become an oak tree. With germination it extends a root into the soil and a shoot into the sunlight above. It continues to grow in this way until it becomes a mature tree capable of bearing its own fruit.
The oak tree is the acorn’s inherent and intended destination. And, just as an arborist doesn’t prune an oak tree into the form of a weeping willow so a therapist’s role is to help each individual achieve their destiny, not someone else’s. To help someone grow is to help them fulfill their deepest potentials and calling. But, in order to do this, the therapist must follow the blueprint of their unfolding nature. The therapist must have insight into the client’s process.
There is a unique process, or sequence of events, that guides and defines an individual’s growth. Before an oak tree produces acorns it must first attain a certain size and hormone balance within the tree. Flower development, pollination and fertilization must all occur, and in a specific order, before an acorn appears. Psychological growth also tends to occur in a sequential manner. For example, the ego, or conscious mind, emerges gradually from the unconscious during the first two years of life. During the next two years this young ego begins to assert itself more and more, a stage sometimes called the “terrible twos.” The maturing child develops a sense of independence and autonomy. The development of social and academic competence, in turn, prepares the child for adolescence where issues of personal identity become more prominent. As development progresses, new challenges and potential achievements come into view all the way to late adulthood.
An individual’s psychological process is reflected in their dreams, relationships, symptoms, synchronicities, and other life events. Just as an arborist can predict what will occur next in a tree’s seasonal growth patterns, psychologists who study the language of the psyche can understand what psychological process is trying to take place in a client’s life. With this awareness they are able to help the client discover and follow their own destiny.
The development of consciousness is an integral part of our psychological growth. To become more conscious is to perceive, experience, and respond to the world from a deepened and more encompassing perspective. To regress is to go backwards and to undo or over-ride growth that has already occurred. To become more conscious, on the other hand, is to progress, to become more discerning and flexible in your interactions with the world. Because you see through new eyes and feel through a new heart, your problems are transformed. Self-destructive attachments lose their power and psychological issues are dissolved, releasing energy for new growth.