Have you ever had one of those amazing realizations that are earth shattering and sure to change your life forever — only to find that a few days later things are right back to where they were before? Or have you noticed that sometimes after the week from hell life suddenly seems to shift and everything gets easier? If yes, you come well prepared for the emotional journey that can be psychotherapy.

For most people, making the decision to see a psychotherapist is a difficult one. We have learned that we should be strong enough to deal with our feelings and emotions ourselves. Going out and looking for help seems like a sign of weakness. We also have been taught to keep family issues to ourselves and to not speak ill of the dead and those close to us, at least not to strangers. And if none of those outer rules deter us from going into therapy, the fear of drudging up the past, opening old wounds, and dealing with the shadows of our personalities are just enough to make us turn around and run. So, if a person decides to come into therapy, the emotional pain he or she is in, is usually quite strong already.

Considering this, it is understandable that most people hope that therapy will make it all better — and fast. Again, this is partially a societal expectation: we have a problem, we go to a specialist and get it fixed, we take a pill or do a certain set of exercises, et voila: we are better. However, anyone who has ever gone through any real difficulties probably understands that this is seldom how it goes.

Every healing process includes ups and downs. The true measure of success is that the overall movement is more up than down and that this upward movement is sustainable. In healing an injury a down may be the flaming up of pain at an unexpected moment or a fallback from moving too much too soon; an up may be the fact that the pain subsides much earlier than expected. In psychotherapy downs are the times when we feel worse before — or in between — feeling better; the ups are the moments when something really shifts and we truly understand that things are different.

In the psychotherapeutic process these ups and downs sometimes happen in the same session, around the same insight: understanding and accepting what happened with the marriage that fell apart and what part we played in it can be both, amazingly freeing and incredibly painful at the same time.

Change is rarely linear and seldom a simple step-by-step process. In order to heal, old wounds may have to be opened and things that keep causing pain may have to be taken out. That means stretching our selves, our souls, our lives. That stretching will be painful in the beginning. The good news is, the more we do it, the easier it becomes. In the meantime it is important to review our progress regularly and to take note of all the positive changes we have already created. That, too, can help dealing with the painful moments.