been in therapy for two years and it has been extremely helpful, in fact,
life changing, but I continue to have feelings of depression and thoughts
of suicide. . . . I have let go of the guilt I have carried
as a result of sexual promiscuity in my college years. I have not explored
being raped by a casual acquaintance in college. . . . I feel
confused as to why it has taken two years and I still feel horrible at times,
and was wondering what the process is, so that I would know if there was
something I was doing, or not doing, that was standing in the way of feeling
ok. I began therapy to get rid of anxiety attacks, so there was a goal and
I knew when it was met. Now, I feel like Im in a sea of thoughts, feelings,
topics, and they all float in and out of therapy all willy-nilly. I dont
know how to navigate to the goal. My therapist keeps saying Im doing
a great job, but Id like an instruction manual to follow.
You bring up an issue that gets right to the heart of the
psychotherapy process. Most psychotherapistsat least those with specialized
theoryunderstand the process so well that they almost take it for
granted. But for the average client, especially for those who have been
traumatized as children by
the whole process may seem to be a frustrating mystery.
Part of the
frustration relates to the need for
in psychotherapy. But if a client comes from an alcoholic family, for example,
where secret after secret is buried before their eyes every day, then honesty
itself can be difficult. When you say, I have not explored being raped
by a casual acquaintance in college, you admit to holding back on an
important element of your inner experience. So honesty actually has to be
learned through the
relationship in order for you to be able to speak about things you would
also something else that contributes to your frustration. Sometimes clients
hold back things not because they want to but because they simply
cant see what they need to be talking about.
consider a rather benign illustration of this not seeing. Have
you ever had to proofread a long document? You read it a couple times, you
notice a spelling error or a punctuation mistake here and there, and then
it looks fine. But if you set it aside for a while and then look it over
again, you might find other mistakes you didnt even see on the earlier
readings. They were right there all along; you just didnt see them.
It happens all the time to me when I make major additions to this website.
As I look over old work, I often find little things to correct, and I wonder
how I could have missed these things before. Well, thats the frustration
So in psychotherapy
you have to examine certain material over and over. You cant just say,
OK. I talked about my alcoholic father. So how come Im not
cured? Theres a big difference between knowing something
intellectually and actually experiencing the emotions it causes. If you take
the intellectualizing approach youre likely to run right into the brick
wall of frustration and come to believe that something is wrong with you,
that youre not capable of doing the work, that youre somehow
inadequate or a failure, and that your psychotherapist will get tired of
your lack of progress and will abandon you. And so you will likely hide those
feelings of failure from your psychotherapist.
And by hiding
that secret you make a big mistake. You make the whole problem worse. Of
course, you are only doing what you were probably trained to
do somewhere in your family: hide secrets. But thats a suicidal, dead-end
solution. The only real solution for when you feel stuck like this is
to talk about the feeling of being frustrated and stuck. As you talk
about your feelings, your psychotherapist can pick up new clues about how
your current feelings bridge back to old wounds. And then you can go over
and over those wounds again and again to free up hidden emotions, previously
invisible to you. After all, its the
invisible poison in
those invisible wounds that keeps you feeling miserable.
The English painter
J. M. W. Turner, speaking about painting, once said, Its a rum
thing. In British English, rum means odd. Years ago,
when I was studying art, I thought that Turner was the best painter there
ever was, and I still think so. His works are vague and nebulous yet profoundly
awesome. And so I would say of psychotherapy, Its a rum thing.
And I fully sympathize with those who find it to be, well, all
willy-nilly. Because thats it exactly.
advertisingno sponsorjust the simple truth . . .