Shakyamuni Buddha was the ultimate psychotherapist. His description of the Four Noble Truths embodies the essence of the therapeutic process. The first truth is the realization of suffering. This is the realization that brings a client into therapy. The old go-to defenses that kept her from facing the fact that something is amiss in her life are no longer working. Overeating, compulsive use of technology, oversleeping, the consumption of drugs or alcohol to numb a persistent feeling of not-enoughness, can no longer mask the unhappiness that lies at the core of an unconscious, automatic life. The day that he realizes that he is deeply unhappy and that something has got to change is the day healing begins. I often tell my clients, "I know it doesn't feel like it, but you are having a grace experience." To know that you are suffering is the first step out of suffering.
The second truth is the truth of how suffering is made. A person who willingly comes to therapy usually already has a strong sense that there is something in the way that he is interacting with his life that is magnifying his perpetual dissatisfaction with the way things are. Therapy is the client's process of exploring her part in creating her own unhappiness. In the poison lies the cure. The more we understand about the making of suffering, the better equipped we are to unmake that suffering.