Are you struggling to find joy in your life?
Life can be very tough. It’s especially true when unexpected events leave us feeling confused, uncertain, and unfulfilled. Unfortunately, these situations often make it difficult to find joy in the everyday moments of life.
According to Oracle’s 2022 global report, 45% of individuals have not experienced genuine happiness for over 2 years. In addition, approximately 25% either do not remember or are unaware of the sensation of feeling truly happy.
But the good news is that it’s possible to rediscover happiness, even in the face of adversity. One effective strategy for this is inner work through therapy.
In this article, we’ll explore what inner work is, why it’s important during therapy, and how therapists use inner work to help you achieve a joyful life.
What is inner work?
Have you ever felt like something is missing from your life? Perhaps you feel unfulfilled despite achieving your goals or being successful in your career. Or maybe you lack purpose in your daily life and find it challenging to experience joy.
The truth is that material success and external accomplishments don’t always guarantee happiness. Oftentimes, the key to finding joy in life lies within ourselves.
That’s where inner work comes in.
Inner work is the process of exploring and understanding your inner self, including your thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and values. It involves examining the deepest parts of ourselves, uncovering our true motivations, and transforming limiting patterns and behaviors.
The main purpose of inner work is to achieve self-awareness. During this process, you can develop a deeper understanding of yourself, your patterns of behavior, and your emotional wounds. That’s how you can explore the reasons why your life isn’t joyful anymore and how to find greater satisfaction in your daily life.
While processing your hidden thoughts, beliefs, or memories by yourself can be challenging, professional therapists can guide you through the process of inner work, helping you to identify and understand the root causes of your issues.
In fact, some people even achieve a higher level of self-awareness called meta-consciousness, which when practiced regularly can help improve their ability to reflect and respond, instead of react.
Inner work also involves confronting our “shadow” –which are behaviors in interacting with others that we are often unaware of.
Why inner work is important during therapy
Psychologists and researchers have long recognized the importance of inner work during tough times. For example, a study published in Research in Human Development found that self-reflection and awareness increase resilience and help individuals heal from trauma (Ardelt & Hrunwald, 2018).
Inner work through therapy involves revisiting past negative experiences and processing the emotions associated with them. It sometimes requires revealing our inner child – the vulnerable part of ourselves that may have been wounded in the past. Using specific techniques, therapists can help you confront your deepest fears and learn to respond to them in healthy ways.
The concept of the “inner child” in psychology refers to the idea that each person has an aspect of their personality that reflects the child they once were. It’s a part of your subconscious that embodies your early experiences, emotions, and memories that have an impact on your present life.
This inner child is thought to embody an individual’s childhood experiences, emotions, and memories, which manifest in behaviors and emotions as an adult (e.g., Sjöblom et al., 2016). Practitioners in this field believe that the inner child is a significant source of information, particularly for people who have experienced childhood trauma (Woodiwiss, 2009). Therefore, therapists often use inner work as a strategy to encourage clients to connect with their inner child as a way of healing past wounds and addressing current issues.
Although this process may be uncomfortable and even painful at times, it’s an effective way to develop healthier coping mechanisms and break free from unconscious limiting beliefs.
How can inner work through therapy help achieve a joyful life?
Research suggests that self-reflection has numerous benefits for both our mental and physical health. In fact, studies have shown that engaging in self-reflection can lead to improved cognitive functioning, better overall brain health, and a heightened glucose metabolism later in life (Demnitz-King et al., 2022). Considering that inner work is an integral part of self-reflection, chances are that through inner work, you can develop self-awareness and overcome issues that hold you back from living a joyful life.
Here are some ways that inner work through therapy can help:
- Breaking down inner barriers
The basic purpose of inner work through therapy is to identify and process your unconscious negative thoughts, emotions, or memories that negatively affect your present life. This can be self-doubt, negative self-talk, and limiting beliefs that may have been deeply embedded in your subconscious from past experiences.
Therapists will help you recognize these inner barriers, challenge them, and move forward with positive and empowering beliefs.
- Developing a better understanding of yourself
Sometimes, we struggle to experience joy in our lives because we don’t fully understand who we are, what we want, and what truly makes us happy. Therapists provide a secure and non-judgmental environment to help you engage in inner work, examine your values, beliefs, and motivations, and gain insight into how they shape your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
As a result of becoming more self-aware, you’ll develop greater self-acceptance and self-compassion which positively affect your subjective well-being (Zessin, Dickhäuser & Garbade, 2015).
- Improved ability to handle stress and challenges
One of the most effective ways to handle stress is to work on increasing your resilience. The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences.” Therefore, it’s the ability to bounce back from difficult situations and maintain optimal functioning.
Studies prove that high resilience is positively associated with psychological well-being (e.g., Kermott et al., 2019). By exploring your inner world and processing past experiences during therapy, you can learn how to regulate your emotions and respond to stress in a healthy way. As a result, you might experience greater resilience and an improved ability to handle challenges that arise in your life.
- Discovering what brings you joy and fulfillment
Finally, inner work is an essential way to identify the things that truly bring you joy and fulfillment in life. Many of us go through life without really understanding what truly brings us happiness and joy. As a result, we have a feeling that our lives can’t be joyful again.
However, exploring your values and motivations can help you gain clarity on what matters most to you and what you want to prioritize in your life. This, in turn, leads to a greater sense of purpose and helps you live a more fulfilling life.
When do you need inner work during counseling?
If you’re looking for ways to find joy in life, you may want to consider inner work during counseling. However, it’s not always easy to know when you need inner work or what it entails.
Here are some signs that may indicate it’s time for you to engage in inner work with the help of a therapist:
- Feeling anxious or stressed most of the time, even in situations where others don’t seem to be.
- Having trouble regulating your emotions.
- Struggling with low self-esteem or self-worth.
- Feeling like you don’t have a clear sense of self or like you’ve lost touch with who you really are.
- Struggling to make decisions or set boundaries in relationships.
- Experiencing persistent feelings of guilt or shame, even when you’re not sure why.
- Feeling like you’re stuck in unhelpful patterns or behaviors, even when you try to change them.
- Coping with a traumatic event or experiencing past negative memories.
- Feeling unfulfilled or lacking purpose in life, despite external success or achievements
The healing power of inner work through therapy
Struggling to find joy in your life can feel like a difficult challenge to face alone. However, there is hope for those seeking a way out of their struggles. Practicing inner work during therapy can help you find your way back to a joyful and fulfilling life.
If you’re ready to explore the healing power of inner work and discover what brings you joy and fulfillment, our team of licensed counselors at Health for Life Counseling is here to support you!