Where The Fruit Is
Thoughts on risk, therapy, and transformation
“If we listened to our intellect, we’d never have a love affair.
We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go into business because we’d be too cynical.
Well, that’s nonsense. You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” --Annie Dillard
When I started my graduate program to become a therapist, one of the first assignments I was given was to find one word that summed up what I hoped to gain from my experience. We were given very little time to choose our word before having to vocalize it to the rest of the class. Little did I know at the time that a single word could be a defining characteristic of my life. My word? Risk. Somehow I had insight at the time to know I was entering into a period of life that was fertile ground for transformation. And I knew that nothing would grow without a willingness on my part to risk.
As I sit down to start this blog, the term “risk” continues to feel relevant. It feels risky to put my thoughts, opinions, and feelings out into the online universe… a world that is so permeable and vast, but also largely permanent. It’s risky to attach my name to words that today feel true, but could easily be transformed tomorrow. What if I change my mind? What if I say something that is incorrect? What if someone does not like what I write? Worse still—what if no one reads this?
Furthermore, “risk” is a concept that is at the heart of what I do as a therapist. I would be unemployed if it were not for risk. It is the action of the brave soul who picks up their phone, or sends that first e-mail—daring to ask (oh what a risk “asking” can be!)—do you have openings? Can I check you out? Will you hear me? Help, please? And the risk I take in saying "yes, I can help."
The “ask” is just the beginning of risk in the therapy room. Every, single, juicy, and often painful step is saturated with risk, but also with the possibility for transformation. What is it, I wonder, that keeps the flame of risk alive in us? I am awed by the courage I see in my office each week. How do we live through such horror and harm, yet continue to lean into the risk of allowing ourselves to be seen? Wow.
The process of learning to risk is like trailblazing. At first it feels scary and dangerous because it’s impossible to anticipate what waits for you around the corner. What if it’s a cliff? What if it’s a garden paradise? When you risk, you will encounter both. I guarantee it. But the more you do it, the better you’ll get at reading the signs and navigating the course—like a well-worn path. Does that mean you’ll be able to reach a level of “risk mastery” in which you’ll be able to avoid all the cliffs? Mmm… no. Landslides do happen. (Talk to a stock broker). But the cliffs will become less catastrophic as you remember, “Hey—I’ve done this before. I even lived through it! I’m ok. I can keep going.”
When I think about what I hope to gain from this experience—writing a blog as part of my therapeutic practice—I realize it is to encourage, support, and inspire risk… both in myself, but especially in my readers and clients. The reason, for me, is tried and true. After all these years of being intentional to risk, I have learned that (mostly) it pays off. Opening myself up to possibility (over and over and over again) has brought a depth of joy that I could not have even imagined 10 years ago. I owe this to risk, and I want to share it with you.
In the blog entries that follow, I hope to share experience, information, and insight that will inspire you to take more risk with strength and confidence. I’m excited to share some of my favorite videos, quotes from authors, and stories from my own life. I’d love to hear feedback and thoughts, or perhaps your own stories of “risk” and how it has transformed you. As Jimmy Carter so wisely said, “Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.”
Written by Kendra Bralens MA LMHCA
Kendra is a practicing counselor at King Therapy Associates
Find out more at https://kinghealthassoc.com/kendra-bralens-ma-lmhca