By Joy Walker
Have you ever played – or watched someone play – that kind of adventure video game where you collect items and skills and powers as the game meanders on? You, as your character, can only actually see the parts of a structure or landscape that you’ve already explored and mapped, and you can wander around this as needed. You know that there must be more there, but it appears only as a solid black screen until you – carrying your cartoon torch – have opened this door or walked down that path, thereby adding more “appearing” territory to what you’ve already accessed.
I realize that this is exactly how I’ve been feeling about my therapeutic process – and progress. There is territory that I’ve covered, that has become known and familiar; issues and patterns, behaviors and projections, choices good and questionable sparked by my past. I know that there continues to be vast black spaces of myself that I haven’t explored; I just haven’t carried the torch of awareness into them yet. I have an idea what these rooms will look like – their shapes, their treasures and tragedies – because of what has come before, what I’ve seen and learned about myself, and from my studies on human psyche and development.
What continues to happen however, and it surprises me every time, is when I begin to penetrate more blackness, and find rooms – issues, histories, motivations, desires – that I had no idea were even there. And those rooms lead on to other rooms, other territories, and completely other vast black spaces, ready for my torch to illuminate them. Rooms I never would have known about if I hadn’t had the urge and courage to continue exploring, continue to pick up skills and knowledge and tools like treasure, and continue to risk pain and uncertainty and whatever fight might come my way.
This is the wonder and the weight of the therapeutic process, the value of self-exploration. Life is a real world adventure game, and you the hero in it; where we don’t always get multiple chances, the set-backs can be crippling, loved ones can wound, arbitrary rules sometimes apply, and the monsters are real. Wouldn’t you want to find out as much as you can about the landscape, and find as many helpful skills and piles of goodies as possible to help you in your quest? Self-knowledge is both treasure and weapon to help you travel safely, as well as the illumination to light up your territory; to help you live the most and best life possible, so you can truly say you’ve won.