A Psychotherapeutic Teaching Story

An apocryphal story from the Sufis, a charismatic sect of the Moslem religion, describes the dilemma of Nasruddin, who has lost the key to his home. Nasruddin is outside his house, crawling around on his hands and knees on the sidewalk under a street lamp, intently looking for his missing key. His friend, Mansour, comes to visit him and sees Nasruddin on his hands and knees, crawling on the sidewalk under the street lamp, obviously searching for something, appearing frustrated.

Concerned for his friend, Mansour asks, "Nasruddin, what are you looking for? Did you lose something?"

"Yes, Mansour. I lost the key to my house, and I’m trying to find it, but I can’t."


"Let me help you," responds Mansour. Mansour joins his friend, kneels down on his hands and knees, and begins to crawl on the sidewalk under the street lamp, searching.

After a time, having looked everywhere on and around the sidewalk, neither Nasruddin nor Mansour can find the lost key. Puzzled, Mansour asks his friend to recall his steps when he last had the key, "Nasruddin, where did you lose the key? When did you last have it?"

"I lost the key in my house," Nasruddin responds.

"In your house?" repeats the astonished Mansour. "Then why are we looking for the key here, outside on the sidewalk under this street lamp?”

Without hesitation, Nasruddin explains, “Because there is more light here . . . !”

And so it is with our own plight. In vain, we search and search outside of ourselves, where there is more light, ignoring what is inside of us, where there is less light.


When patients engage in psychotherapy, they allow their therapist to shine a light on this vague, dark interior world, which facilitates the first step in healing their psychological hurts.