I think I know how avalanches occur. I have seen a few mini-avalanches outside my window on the tree branches. Rarely does the snowfall in a straight vertical pattern here because of the wind. On occasion when the snow does fall without wind, the flakes accumulate on the tree branches. If the snowfall is heavy enough, the builds to a maximum height. At that point, the slightest alteration in the environment, or just a few more flakes landing, and “flash” a cascade of snow falls from the tree branch. When this happens, I am sometimes startled, because I neither saw nor heard a trigger for the tumbling snow–no squirrel, no bird, no gust of wind. The weight, depth, and angle of the snow is all that is necessary at just the right moment. At this precise moment, there is a readiness to collapse inherent in the structure of the snow accumulation.
I have seen this same phenomenon in therapy. “Readiness” is probably one of the most important elements in healing, and is often overlooked. “Readiness to change” may be more precise, because we can also be in a readiness state in other ways. Dr. Thomas Hora, an existential metapsychiatrist who wrote in the late 1970s and 1980s said people change for two reasons–through wisdom or through suffering. Most people choose suffering. Sometimes by the time someone comes to see me, the toll of their suffering has reached unbearable levels, and they have begun to see that the source of their suffering is not “out there,” but rather it is due to their own way of thinking and perceiving. They already have divorced one or two spouses, bought the new house and car, accumulated power and prestige, taken different jobs, or moved to different locations, but they are still not happy. The weight of their unhappiness and the failed attempts to be happy by making changes in their external world have prepared them to be ready for change–an inner change, a collapse of the old ways of thinking to make room for new awareness and new thought patterns.
When someone comes to me in such a state of readiness, a mini-avalanche of healing occurs with such quickness and fluidity, it is both startling and breathtaking!