There’s something invigorating about the New Year. Many of us have this sense of a “clean slate,” the turning of a page, a new opportunity, fresh air. Whether you set a New Year’s resolution (like 45% of Americans) or not, I think most of us would agree many times there is some sort of a relief when one year comes to a close and a new year begins. We made mistakes last year. Maybe we didn’t excel as much in work as we hoped we would, neglected important relationships, gained five pounds when we meant to lose ten. Or some of us might have experienced significant losses this year: received a life-changing diagnosis, went through a terrible break-up, lost a loved one.
What ever “it” was for you this past year, for most of us this New Year embodies at least a degree of hope. We barely thought we were going to make it (at least in one arena of our lives), and now there’s a chance to experience something different. We start to assess where we have been and start thinking forward to where we want to go or what we want to experience.
I believe this “New Year’s experience” reflects these three intrinsic human needs.
1. Closure (at the appropriate time) is essential.
As therapists we notice that many of our clients, once they have experienced some relief and progress from stressors, will realize that their painful experiences have been some of their greatest teachers. However, until this time has come to pass, it is apparent to us that people have limits. Many times, people do not seek therapy until they have dried up all their resources and feel helpless and on their “last limb.” It’s as if they are saying, “I can’t endure this any longer,” “It’s gone on too long,” or “This has to stop.” We reach junctures in our lives where change and closure is paramount.
2. Renewed hope is vital.
It’s hard to find our way out of the dark until we see a glimpse of light. We need a reason to believe that closure and change is possible. As therapists, an important quality that is integrated throughout our work is journeying with people as they crawl to find this light. Just as the New Year gives us a glimmer of hope for change, so is there an intrinsic need we see in our clients to strengthen hope in order for closure or progress to occur.
3. Vision is needed.
With this sense of closure and hope, we are able to look forward to what our lives can look like. This isn’t to say that we can’t look back at our history. In fact, just as it is with New Year’s resolutions, you need to assess the past and present in order to appropriately set goals for the future. However, I find that if we only look at the past and the present moment and don’t visualize what can be ahead, then we are much more likely to fall back.
Mary Overstreet Reading, LAMFT, LAPC
moverstreet @ GROWcounseling.com