Often, the work of psychologists and neuroscientists provides insight into the realm of therapy and counseling by breaking down, into very small and specific actions, how and why our thoughts and actions relate the way they do. Sometimes this new knowledge is directly relatable to the field of psychotherapy, such as research exploring how memories are formed during times of stress: this area of study is looks incredibly promising for PTSD counseling and treatment. Other times, though, lessons learned through research aren’t applicable literally, but they do make for a very helpful metaphor.
New research from Ohio State University is exactly such a discovery. Psychologist Dennis Shaffer and his colleagues discovered that humans looking at hills and other inclines often overestimate their steepness. Specifically, we factor in how difficult it would be to get up that hill, instead of the hill’s appearance alone, when reporting how steep it looks.
This is a fantastic metaphor for how humans approach challenge. Sometimes, the journey from A to Z (or even A to C) seems insurmountable. When people finally find a psychotherapist after months and years of struggling with depression, anxiety, addiction, and insecurity, getting to a “better place” can seem an impossible goal.
It’s true that change can take time and lots of hard work, and therapy is no exception. But it’s also true that we often psych ourselves out, adding self-doubt and pessimism to the hill, which of course only makes it harder to climb. But even in the midst of the hard work of therapy, the rewards can be incredibly heartening. Imagine you are, indeed, climbing a mountain and you’re only one third of the way up its slope. The view from one-third up the world’s highest mountain is plenty impressive in itself; how much so when you exercise patience, self-care, and determination and finally make it to the top?
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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