A good friend of mine recently commented that she had always known I was bigger than my surroundings. This comment struck a chord with me in a much deeper way than it had before. I paused and reflected on my life, and recalled how, as a young woman, I was filled with self-doubt, lacked confidence, and had a very negative self-perception. I often heard comments about my “potential,” but I brushed those off, thinking if the people making them really knew me, they’d know they were wrong.
Fast forward a few years and I met a professor in my first year of college who marveled at what he called my “innate” understanding of people and psychology. His comment penetrated deep into my mind. Maybe, just maybe, he was right. Maybe there was something more to this small town girl than even I knew. It was a shot of self-confidence to me at a time when I desperately needed it and had no idea how to find it for myself.
There have been many people like that over the years—those who offered a helping hand, a kind word, a shot of affirmation, a note of recognition, and who believed in me when I doubted myself. Those people—friends, family, colleagues, professors, and even strangers have offered a most precious and valuable gift—borrowed belief.
Borrowed belief is often what is required when our own belief in ourselves is low. When we don’t have it within ourselves to pick up and keep walking, there are those spectators in our lives who offer us their belief until we can find our own. Many of us can look back on the times in our lives when we lived on borrowed belief in a time of doubt only to find that in the process, we found our own well of self-confidence and belief in our own ability and worthiness.
Isn’t that what therapy offers clients as well? When clients come in, they are often confused, doubtful, and have very few inner resources to draw on. They sit with us, often hoping we can offer them a Rule Book for Living and answers to their deepest questions, but what they find instead is a person who creates the right circumstances for them to find those answers themselves.
Often, there are no answers to be found, and the therapist simply offers a safe place with which to grapple with the unknowing. The therapist offers the client the possibility for something greater than they are currently experiencing, and in that sacred place, lends his or her belief to the client. That is part of what makes this work so holy—it is often the place where people get to know their own greatness, weakness, deepest desires, and fears, and find the courage to become who they really are. The therapist offers the client the gift that many so desperately need—belief. In what the client may view as an existence without purpose or meaning, the therapist, by his or her very presence, offers a hand of hope and possibility.
This is why I see therapy as holy work and sacred ground—it is one of the few places where one can come and be who they are on the way to where they are going, without encountering judgment or agenda. The consulting room offers far more than a listening ear when the therapist can help the client see beyond his or her own self-perceived limitations and into the vastness of their being. Therapists, in a sense, are dealers in belief—we align with the client’s highest self and possibility while loving and accepting the client just as he or she is. In the process, the client can learn to love and accept him- or herself until he or she no longer needs our services.
Lending ones’ belief to another is no small task and is in no way insignificant. Indeed, it can be the very thing that changes a life and the generations that follow.
— Lisa Vallejos