Do you remember the Biblical story of Jacob wrestling with the angel? Jacob manipulated his brother Esau to sell his inheritance for a bowl of stew and then stole his father’s blessing. Twenty years later, on the eve of being reunited with Esau, a strange being, an angel or perhaps God Himself, appeared to wrestle with Jacob. They engaged in a titanic struggle. Jacob refused to let go before the being revealed its identity.
It is a remarkable story of an unforgettable confrontation. But this cosmic battle took place right before meeting Esau. We can readily imagine Jacob also wrestled with his guilty conscience for deceiving and harming his brother. In this haunting encounter, could he take a proper accounting of himself?
Often, we repeat unsatisfying or self-destructive patterns of relating to ourselves, others in our lives, and the world around us. Like the mysterious and powerful being Jacob fought, we wrestle with ourselves in utter darkness without a clear idea about who or what opposes us.
Jacob remained steadfast. He wanted to learn the identity of his powerful assailant. Likewise, the psychotherapy journey involves a commitment to pursue self-knowledge. The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. It consigns us to wrestle in the dark. Psychotherapy creates a safe place in our lives, enabling us to turn up the dimmer switch, so we can see the obstacles we keep putting in our way. By taking a fuller accounting of ourselves, we begin to understand how and why we repeat unsatisfying patterns of relating. And this allows us to make more enlightened choices to lead more fulfilling lives.