Many people have found that the only kind of therapy that works for them involves psychotropic medication. I am not a trained therapist and therefore not qualified to write about the use of medication for depression and anxiety. I believe that medication as prescribed by a skilled practitioner can be tremendously helpful, and I have seen it work well for several people I know. But I also believe that our fast-food culture tends to look for quick fixes and struggle-free solutions to whatever ails us. The philosopher Sam Keen warns that medications like Prozac can "deliver us prematurely from anxiety and struggle at the expense of the epiphany we need to begin again."

Psychotherapy is by nature a highly personal matter, without a one-size-fits-all formula for success. I suggest that, if you feel drawn to therapy, you do some of your own research through reading and talking to trusted friends. You may need to shop around for a while before you find a therapy and therapist that match your unique needs. My own therapy began with fits and starts before I found the best method and, more significant, the right therapist. This was not a well-conceived, strategic process. At first I had mixed feelings about being in therapy. I didn't know what I was looking for, and since one of my biggest issues was trying to please other people, I spent some fruitless months under the guidance of a therapist who was terribly wrong for me. I was so afraid of hurting his feelings that I stayed on even though I felt uncomfortable in his presence. Finally, after gathering the courage to leave and then asking around for the names of other therapists, I began work with a man whose skill and compassion helped change the course of my life.

During the difficult time of my divorce, I spent four years going to therapy once a week. My therapist helped me to slowly unravel the strands of my story—dipping back into childhood, examining my marriage, looking honestly at my behavior at work and with friends. In my own time I developed the desire to stop looking to others for salvation or for blame, and to take responsibility for my own happiness and success. This is what psychotherapy did for me. Other people will come to therapy with their own specific needs and discover parts of themselves that have gone missing for years. I found a more powerful and self-confident person through the process of therapy. Others may find a more empathetic person, or a less fearful person, or a more hopeful and lively person. Whatever it is that wants to live within you—whatever is sleeping and has perhaps been sleeping since childhood—can awaken through slow and steady work with a wise therapist.

Working with Teachers, Therapists, and Healers

Working at Omega Institute has put me in contact with some of the world's most influential psychological thinkers and spiritual teachers. I am grateful for the mystical, intellectual, and therapeutic wisdom that I have absorbed from being around these people, but you may be surprised by the most important lesson I have learned. By knowing many of Omega's teachers, I have come to understand that everyone—the saintly guru, the erudite scholar, the compassionate psychotherapist—is an imperfect human being with neuroses and problems and rough edges not unlike yours and mine. From rubbing up against the human dimension of the so-called enlightened ones, I accept now that the point of life is not to reach perfection but to befriend the fact that human beings are works in progress.
Excerpted from BROKEN OPEN: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser. © 2004 by Elizabeth Lesser. Reprinted by arrangement with the Random House Publishing Group.


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