I think you’ve probably heard people say this before: “trust the process.” I don’t love the way we use this idiom. I mean, why should I trust this process?
Someone may have said this to you about therapy and mental health. “Just trust the process.” But why should you?
So let me dissect what it truly means to “trust the process.” I differentiate two ways we can apply this to our life. And I definitely believe that one way is better than the other.
Trust The Process 1.0: Unfounded Faith
This form of “trusting the process” happens when you don’t have any understanding of why and how the process works. You simply trust it because…well…someone told you to.
Trust The Process 2.0: Knowledgeable Faith
This is an upgrade to the 1.0 version. You have learned about the theory, concept, and/or method of the process. As a result, you have a general sense of how and why the process works. This knowledge gives you a level of confidence to surrender yourself to the process.
Horrible Bosses In Therapy
I don’t love the idea of “trusting the process” of therapy. And I think it is kind of problematic to say that if you “put your intentions out into the world, the world will reciprocate that energy.”
While I do think that the idea of “intention” and “energy” has merit, I think it gets misunderstood. At the very surface level, it often feels like unfounded faith.
But instead, think about it this way. Imagine that you have a work boss. This work boss is a total asshole. Everyday you go to work, they would yell at you. They are constantly spying on your work, waiting for you to make a mistake, so they can reprimand you. And when you take your breaks, they would immediately ask you why you’re not working. And hell, you’re one of their best workers! You’re so over it, and you’re ready to quit.
Then, something changes. Your boss started therapy with me. And I told them to put “positive intentions and energy” into the world, and to “trust this process.” From then on, everyday, your boss would come to work and strike up pleasant conversation with you, asking you about your life, and learning about you. Your boss starts to acknowledge your great work. They throw monthly birthday parties. They even offer you a year-end bonus because of your great work.
At first, you were skeptical. After all, you spent a full year being abused by this boss. But after a few months, you start enjoying your work. And a few more months pass by, and you actually start to get to know your boss better. Your opinions of them is changing. The work environment has completely changed. Everyone is happier. The team finally feels like a team. And instead of quitting, you decide to stay at this company.
Trusting The Therapy Process: Knowledgeable Faith
So when I told your awful boss to put “positive intentions and energy” into the world, and to “trust this process,” what was truly happening?
Well, it’s pretty simple. Relationships are a two-way process. Your boss was mistreating you. They created a toxic work environment. As a result, you were planning to quit your job. But your boss made huge changes in the way they approached you. They started to get to know you. They started to respect and recognize your work. And they were going to even reward you with a bonus, as a way to recognize your great work. This changed the way you perceived and felt about your job. So you decided to stick around.
This change isn’t a magical process. This isn’t just “energy” and “positive intention” that’s randomly thrown into the world. Your boss has changed the way they relate to people. As a result, people in their life is responding positively to them. And from your end, you decided to stay at this job…and heck, maybe even become friends with your boss. The "energy" and "intention" of your boss has actually changed the workplace, and changed the relationship pattern with their employees.
And your boss wasn’t “trusting the process” due to unfounded faith. His therapist (me), made sure they understood that relationships are a two-way process. Which means they understand the impact they can have on fostering healthy relationships.
A Good Test For Your Therapist
So if you’re looking for a therapist, it might be helpful to have them explain the therapy process. A good therapist would be able to articulate the therapy process, and how the process works. After understanding things for yourself, THEN you can have knowledgeable faith to “trust the process.”
As always, thanks for tuning in. If you found this helpful, share with your peeps. You can also get my free Asian Survival Guide.
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Therapy for Asians
MSW, RSW | he/him
I help Asians go from feeling trapped to becoming self-liberated.