What Counseling and Your Suitcase Have in Common

Before a person sets out on an adventure, the soon-to-be traveler usually purchases and prepares helpful items for the journey ahead. Whether the adventure involves a hero gathering equipment for his journey across kingdoms to save the world or a businessperson packing her suitcase for an international leadership conference, packing is an essential step in our journeys.

Sometimes I feel a special kind of joy as I pack for a trip, especially if the items I’m placing in my bag remind me of an exciting destination to come.

When I’m prepping for a beach trip, I’m always happy to see my swimwear, souvenir towels, and flip flops stacked in a neat pile in my suitcase. During those moments I can almost smell the saltwater and feel the steady breeze already, even though I’m still standing hundreds of miles away from any ocean.

Unfortunately, packing isn’t always an exciting experience.

When grieving adult siblings who have moved miles away from their hometown pack their black suits and dresses before traveling home, the packing process reminds them that their loss is real and that a difficult journey is imminent. In those moments, joy and excitement are often replaced by feelings of sadness, loneliness, anger, and confusion.

Whether we’re looking forward to the packing process or dreading it, packing is an invaluable step in every journey. The packing process serves as a great illustration of how we prepare for the journeys throughout our lives whether we’re traveling through everyday situations or milestone events.

If we pack in a hurry, we run the risk of forgetting an item we need along the journey or once we arrive at our destination. If we don’t spend enough time thinking through a decision, we might act too rashly, regret our choices, or forget what’s valuable to us.

If we don’t spend enough time packing wisely for important conversations (if we don’t consider how the words we choose can affect the people we love before we open our lips to speak), we can bring unnecessary hurt to our relationships.

The illustration of the packing process also demonstrates how we can easily focus too much on packing and fail to actually depart on our journeys. When we procrastinate or take too long to pack, we can struggle with leaving for our destination on time.

For example, we can make excuses to delay jumping into the careers we truly desire, because we know the required journey will be difficult. Others tell themselves they need to earn one more degree, read one more book, or attend one more training first (we over pack). Sometimes we simply need to take what we’ve learned, trust ourselves, and just go.

Okay, so packing is important, but what does that have to do with counseling?

Most of us wouldn’t intentionally leave for a beach trip without packing. We wouldn’t leave for an international business conference without packing, either. Why, then, do so many of us neglect the packing process for the longest and most complicated journey we’ll ever experience — our life?

If packing for your entire life seems a bit overwhelming, we get it. And we’re here to help.

You don’t have to wait until a crisis comes to seek the services of a counselor. Many people think of therapists as assistant firefighters who help people extinguish the flames of their crises after their own fire hoses have run dry. But therapists are also educated and trained to help equip their clients with valuable personal resources that can help prevent or reduce the damage of many disasters.

Therapists can meet you wherever you are in your journey. If you’re trying to decide which college or career is best for you, grieving the loss of a loved one, wandering through the dark woods of depression, or wanting to learn how to communicate better with your partner, friends, or family, we’re here to help. Whether you need a detailed map and compass, a first-aid kit, or simply need a quick set of directions, fellow traveler, we’re here to help.

Quest Life Counseling exists to help our clients learn effective strategies for navigating their mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational journeys. Visit our website’s Client Info & Resources tab for information about setting up your first meeting with a counselor. You can also browse our Contact page to get started on your quest toward health and well-being today.

Written by Corey S. Springer, MMFT