website points out the importance of client and therapist honesty; however,
if a person has spent a lifetime avoiding and denying emotions, please advise
as to how to begin opening up. How is the vault to
be opened when a person doesnt have the combination?
Well, keeping with your metaphor of the vault, the treasure
in the vault, as you intuitively suggest, is your collection of denied
emotions. Since denied emotions cause most psychological problems, most of
the work of psychotherapy hinges on learning to recognize and express those
emotions. To get at this treasure, though, it doesnt help much if an
incompetent psychotherapist just keeps asking you, So how does that
make you feel? If you could answer that question, you wouldnt
need psychotherapy, would you?
with your metaphor of the vault, the psychotherapist must be a sort of
safecracker. Just as old safes in the past could be cracked by
listening to the fall of the tumblers, the psychotherapist can crack the
combination of your
by listening to various aspects of your speech and language. Things such
as misspoken words (Freudian slips), hesitations, and attempts
to change the subject all give clues to your unconscious conflictsand
to the treasure of emotions that, like old silver, have been covered with
Your job, then,
is simply to speak. Your psychotherapists job
is to listen carefully to what you say, focus in on meaningful points of
your speech (crack open the conflict), and then help you articulate the emotions
(clean off the tarnish).
articulating the emotions can be hard, so the psychotherapist will have to
teach you as you go along. You might be asked
to identify physical sensations. You might be asked to speak about images
or memories that come to mind as you think about a current experience. You
might be asked to speak about your
dreams. All sorts
of techniques could be used, but their primary intent is to lead you from
that seemingly meaningless slip or hesitation into a full experience of the
emotions that are hidden within it. This requires nothing of you but an
to whatever your psychotherapist asks of you.
control this process
of discovery, so dont bother trying.
the unconscious happen spontaneously and unexpectedly. So just speak about
anything that comes to mind, and let your psychotherapist do his or her job
of listening, noticing, and teaching.
is not supposed to be a paid friend, a nanny, or an emotional
prostitute. Your psychotherapists job is to teach you
what you failed to learn in childhood about emotional honesty in relationships.
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If this sounds
hard, then take a deep breath, because this is only the first step
of understanding the psychotherapy process. Just so you know what youre
in for, here is a summary of three main steps of psychotherapy:
To learn that
you have emotionsboth pleasant and unpleasantand how to recognize
and name them.
To learn that
all the unpleasant and frightening emotions which you have been pushing out
of awareness all your life have been secret causes for all the problems and
conflicts you have been experiencing all your life. Therefore, you must examine
your past very carefully so as to make a conscious, enlightened connection
between your repressed emotions and your behavioral problems. This scrutiny
will show you how your life, up to now, has been largely controlled by the
repetition of old
the previous step so that you can easily recognize how the problems from
the past have been influenced by your emotions, you can now learn to recognize
your emotions right in the present, as they occur in the moment, and then
make a conscious decision to do something new, something more healthy and
beneficial to your well-being than merely be controlled by the unconscious
repetition of old emotional conflicts.
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