It’s been fascinating to people watch on the camino. Though my experience seems to be one of conquering challenges, I hear and see so many others on their camino feeling a real sense of healing and personal growth.
The fact is that people all over the world choose, some times on multiple occasions, to put life on hold and walk 10-20 miles a day in northern Spain each year. A lot of the religious or obligatory (at one point it was a prison sentence) reasons for the journey have died off, and yet people are flocking here in growing numbers.
It got me thinking about the common sentiments of pilgrims. I’ve heard and read things like, “it’s wonderful meeting new people and having meaningful conversations all day,” or “I’ve gotten to know myself better,” or ” It’s been great to live outside my comfort zone each day,” and “I’ve accomplished things I never thought I would,” and “I love the time to reflect on life.”
And it hit me. The camino is therapeutic.
It is the perfect metaphor for systemic (or marriage and family) therapy! One embarks on a journey to know themselves better and embrace desired change through acquiring a relationship with a person with no personal vested interest in their life. Everyone on the camino and in therapy are prioritizing self reflection and embracing change however painful it may be. At the foundation of systemic therapy is the belief that we best see and understand ourselves through relationships. That’s what makes systemic therapy so different from psychology and psychiatry, the therapist seeks to have a healthy professional relationship with the client to be able to reflect back what the client is experiencing in life to aid in personal growth and creating more options.
Another important part of therapy that happens here is a respect for context. Being somewhat trapped in the middle of northern Spain, is a context no one can ignore. It affects every part of the persons experience. A good therapist sees the client and their context whether it be their job, family of origin or current partner and children at home. All of these aspects affect whether a person experiences feelings of happiness, depression, anxiety, joy, or sorrow.
And I whole-heartedly believe, everyone could use a journey like that 🙂