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We have traversed life, gaining rich experiences. We might be married, widowed, divorced, or single; rich, poor, or somewhere in between. We could have any sexual or gender identity, and our own defined or not so defined political views. But, what we all have, in mid-life, is the gift of wisdom. Life has given us challenges that we have walked through, sometimes bruised and battered, often having made mistakes. But, truth be told, all of that made us stronger, and wiser, and we know it.

The ancient Greek aphorism, “Know thyself,” is the theme of the aware mid-lifer. It is wisdom that calls us to self-reflect, to go within, and think about who we are, what we feel and think; to hear our inner voice, intuition, and truth. Questions start to come to us, and we ask, “How have I changed? Am I being honest with myself? What is my role in this struggle? What could I have done, to not bring drama and conflict into this situation, but rather offer a genuine, compassionate, and strong presence?” We know, when we have fallen off the path, if we just let ourselves see it. Sometimes we pretend, distracting ourselves or over rationalizing things, so the truth quickly becomes masked by sadness and negative behaviors and we ‘forget.’ Or, we foolishly think we can actually change another person, and misdirect our energies away from taking personal responsibility by managing our own emotions and behaviors.

Psychotherapy, a relationship with an ‘other,’ over time becomes a reflective experience, validating our inner truths and keeping us connected with ourselves. As we commit to this inner journey, for our own personal growth and development, we begin to fulfill our role in this world, what we came here to do- to be our real, authentic selves. “Are we on track?” we ask? “What changes do I need to make, to be a better person? Are these physical changes? Do toxic relationships need to end? Do we need to bring a better version of ourselves to our current relationships? Do we need to change the way we think about this problem, focusing only on the good and building from there, rather than the reverse? What do we need in our lives to feel happy and fulfilled?” These are the things we contemplate with a therapist.

As we tell our stories in sessions, we stop to ponder aloud here and there, rambling on at other times. To be self-reflective with another, to honestly talk, without censoring, is the key. In the stillness of a therapeutic relationship we gain understanding of who we are by filtering through the details of our lives and finding our real thoughts and feelings. As the therapist reflects back to us what we have shared, our inner experiences receive validation; we have been seen and heard. If we allow these truths to resonate, they take hold. We become more certain of who we are and what we need, and approach life with more confidence.

We go off into our lives after a session and carry this stronger version of our Self into our interactions. This awareness of our own perspective is the healing gift- our inner peace. It can be challenging to hold on to this in the busyness of life, rushing from here to there, managing things the best we can. That is why we go back, to wonder again about all of this, and to keep our feet on the path we were intended to walk.

By Julie Ann Noparstak

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