For me, part of the idea of building a therapeutic relationship is sharing what I’ve learned and continue to learn. This does not mean that I make a therapy session about me — quite the contrary. But when a client is looking to remedy an unquiet mind or an uneasy interpersonal relationship, I will often share my related subjective experiences. To me, that’s what relating is — sharing what we have in common with another.
It’s a tricky thing to do as a therapist. Self-disclosure is often frowned upon in a therapist’s training, and by clients who are there with a therapist because they are struggling and need the focus to be on themselves. When I disclose my subjective experience, it is usually within these two parameters: 1) I believe that what I’m about to disclose will be helpful to the client; and 2) what I disclose is ideally “teachable” and “learnable” rather than a simple statement of relating for the sake of relating.
Recently, one of my yoga instructors taught a Sanskrit meditation during a class I attended. This is a touching example of a teachable, learnable, relatable moment for me. I’ve since shared this with a number of clients. Try it yourself. Say these words out loud, and let me know what you think:
Maitri (Friendliness) Meditation
May (I) (your full name) be well, happy, and peaceful.
May no harm come to (me).
May no problems come to (me).
May no difficulties come to (me).
May (I) always be successful.
May (I) (your full name) also always have
The patience, courage and determination
To meet and overcome
The problems, difficulties and failures in life.
Repeat these verses seven times:
- For yourself
- For your parents (using their full names)
- For your family
- For your friends
- For your casual acquaintances
- For your enemies
- For all sentient beings
The basis of this meditation is called cittaprasadanam, which is a four-fold remedy for keeping the mind serene and pure. It is embodied by the practices of:
- Maitri (friendliness)
- Karuna (compassion)
- Mudita (joy in the success of others)
- Upeksam (indifference to attachment to pleasure or pain, virtue or vice. To no always seek pleasure and avoid pain at all costs)