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What do therapy and the stock market have in common?

You may be scratching your head right now, asking yourself: Where on earth is the connection between the S&P500 and your personal development in therapy? To answer this question, I would like to show you the following graph:

If you look at the blue trend in this graph, you will see the growth rate of 500 of the largest US companies over the last 100 years or so. You also see a perfect general example of your personal development in therapy. Although the two variables I'm comparing here - the stock market and personal development in therapy - couldn't be more random and disconnected, the way the blue line behaves is a wonderful example of what our own personal process can look like.

By this I don't mean that the blue line falls and rises at the same time as your personal process, but just as the stock market has its declines and rises, plateaus and crises, so too does our personal process behave from day to day, week to week and month to month. Just like the stock market, our personal development in therapy experiences constant growth - despite its fluctuations and difficult phases. We are constantly growing, maintaining and improving the process we are in, and thus ourselves.

The big difference, however, is that we completely accept strong fluctuations in the stock market, whereas we do not accept them so much in our personal development. To give you an example: A client, let's call him Marcus, has been coming to weekly therapy for 7 months. Slowly and steadily he has felt more connected to himself. In the last few months he has been able to see friends again, he has felt more confident talking to his parents, and he has been able to set boundaries and say "no" to others for the first time in his life. In the last therapy session, Marcus entered the therapy room with a disappointed, discouraged look on his face and said the following:

"Last week I felt the same as I did 7 months ago when I started counselling. I felt disconnected from myself, out of control and deeply anxious. I wasn't even able to meet up with my boyfriend, even though he was so excited to hang out with me. My whole process went down the drain and I'm back where I started. Point zero!"

What Marcus is experiencing here is very common, completely understandable and normal. Personal development in therapy is not a neat textbook exponential line. There are dips and increases. The important thing is not to react to the dip with crisis and reaction, but to look at the bigger picture.

Let's bring the stock market back into play to support my suggestion: If you are inexperienced in stock market trading, you will probably sell all your shares when prices fall or have already fallen. If you are experienced, however, you know that the fall also means that things are going to go up again, and this time maybe even a bit higher than before. Instead of selling your shares out of fear, you wait patiently and look forward to the coming growth. You may even look forward to the bottom to take the opportunity to buy more. It is similar with your personal development in therapy.

There is nothing you urgently need to do when you feel low and more anxious again. Accept it when you are feeling down and see moments of challenge as opportunities for further growth. Just trust that this is part of the process and there is no going back to "point zero". Instead of looking through the macro lens at your own process, which may look like this.. need to zoom out and look at the first graph that shows not only the slumps, but also all the climbs that follow the slumps. The therapeutic process and personal development is not a straight line process - it is always in motion, always changing; with a general movement towards growth, even if we don't always see or feel it.


Do you sometimes feel like you are back at where you started when you are having a real hard day or week? Would it help you to relaxe a bit more into the bigger picture and trust that even if this feels hard right now, it is part of your ongoing journey? Can you trust this journey to always move forward even if it feel like its going backwards?

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