Tag Archives: psychotherapy

no magic wand, no crystal ball

The therapist only knows what you tell them.  Sure, if the therapist has experience, they could probably surmise some things that you may not have spoken about yet, and hopefully, ask you directly to see if certain things are true for you.  The more you work therapy, the more it will work for you.  The amount of help a therapist can provide is directly proportional to how much work you are willing to do.  This is important to realize because at times, therapists are seen as having some form of magical qualities that will make you ‘better’.    This is not so.  YOU make yourself better by working at making the changes that you want to, and need to, make.  Therapy is useful when you need extra guidance, support or insight into how to make changes and/or address whatever blocks your path.

 

pass the scalpel, please

If you are contemplating going into therapy for the first time, chances are you are not in a good place in your life; and chances are that you are worried you are entering into psychotherapy hell – will you actually be helping yourself by spending all this money to talk about your past?  Will the therapist diagnose you as crazier than you had thought you were?  Or worse yet, maybe the therapist will laugh and think you’re silly.  Will they understand – and will you be able to explain?

All these are possibly valid questions related to the fears you are having, and ultimately it is up to you to enter and/or leave a psychotherapy relationship.  There is a financial commitment, a commitment to yourself.  If you have tried self-help books; talking to friends; late night postings on related-to-your-problem sites to no avail, maybe you need to try therapy.  The biggest difference is the fact that you will have a live human being in front of you; you will be having a conversation – in real time.

Therapy is not like surgery, however.  The therapist will not pick apart your brain and take the bad, diseased part out.  If only…

This is a core fear about therapy – about finding out there is something inherently wrong with you – some ‘diseased part’.  Actually, there is no ‘diseased part’.  The aspects of yourself that give you the most trouble are probably strengths taken out of context;  coping skills and other behaviors that no longer work for you;   survival skills that are no longer necessary; knee-jerk reactions from past events that you just can’t erase.

Therapy could also be about finding out what is right with you and how to use your strengths more effectively.  Who knows, you could even become happier with yourself just as you are.

 

 

inner child

I see this song as sung by the singer’s inner child to the singer.   In Pink’s Family Portrait, the child is her as they are dressed in the same clothes and even have the same beauty marks on their faces. It’s not until she acknowledges this inner child that she gets to a better place.

 Pink – Family Portrait

So much has been written about inner child work.  The main premise of inner child work centers on the idea that there is an aspect of the adult that remains a child and holds the emotional memories of events and experiences as well as reactions.  This inner child needs to be given a voice.  Usually, as adults, we reject ideas or feelings that intellectually we know are not ‘appropriate’ for us to feel, or that we don’t want to feel, and so these feelings are never verbalized.  They usually leak out, however, in ways that are difficult to control, like when we are very upset,  and that we usually later regret.

Therapy is a forum to give voice to all the illogical parts of you – in a safe, non-judgmental forum.  Parts of you that are exasperating because you already should ‘know better’, but you still cannot stifle.

making changes

Anaïs Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom”

Changing is difficult; taking risks; going down a new path.  Familiar misery feels safer than the unknown leap into something we desire.

At times, it is difficult to really see ‘why’ is nothing changing “even though I desire it so?”.  One difficulty is that an individual looks at the horizon, their goal or destination but then does not look at where their feet are planted, nor do they take the next step.   All these inspirational messages are for naught when we cannot apply them to our own lives.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”.  Hmm – how does this relate to my own complicated life?  This sounds sweet, but my situation is unique.   The distance between the present and the destination appears insurmountable.  I’m different.  Or worse yet, I’m not different, I’m just a loser, a dreamer that won’t get anywhere.  I know better, but still I don’t do it.

Looking at this through a ‘cognitive -behavioral’ perspective, how you look at yourself and the steps you need to take is what ultimately helps or hinders you.  The most common reasons that an individual doesn’t take the ‘first’ or the ‘next’ step are:

it’s not enough

I need to do more than that

If it’s already months/years later and you are still saying the same thing to yourself, it’s time to look at this more closely.  It’s time to turn this around and do it even though you don’t think it’s enough.  Make the step so easy, that you know that you could do it with your eyes closed.  So small, that when you’re done, you feel like taking more steps.  Don’t!  But you already know the drill.  You then burn yourself out, and stop altogether.  Keep things slow and steady; take it very slow and keep it easy.

For every step forward – you will still have to contend with your self esteem and self confidence that will start clamoring for you to go back to bed or to do more than you planned.

Making changes is difficult; one cannot do this alone – if you could, you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now.  It’s important to get others involved in the changes you want to make.  Sometimes it’s good to get someone outside of your primary support network.  Sometimes they may have their own stakes in whether or not you change.  Getting involved in a support group with others who are trying to make similar changes is one way to expand your network of support.  Getting a therapist is another.

What changes have you been wanting to make?   Do you keep making the same plan over and over again, expecting it to be different this time?  Do you stop yourself before you even start?  It’s time to turn to the sun and unfurl your petals.

 

alone again, naturally

This is not a post adressing suicidal thoughts.  If you feel like you are going to hurt yourself, please talk to someone or take yourself to the nearest ER.

The song is about loss: being left at the altar, the mother dying, father dying, relationships ending and being alone.  But the critical word, I believe, is ‘naturally’.  The idea that you are alone again, – of course, what else is there for me; I’m forever destined to be alone.

http://youtu.be/D_P-v1BVQn8

How we perceive an event and the reason things happen to us is one of the centerpieces of our mental health.  If I think that I’m doomed to be alone for the rest of my life, no matter what I do – I’ll be pretty depressed, including feeling helpless and hopeless about it to boot.

It’s important to look at the themes of your perceptions of yourself, about life, about ‘why’ things happen to you to see more clearly what you bring to the table of your life.  Once you identify those themes, you can work on changing your perceptions, changing the possibilities of ‘why’ certain things occur in your life.  Who knows to what bountiful horizons you could point yourself towards!

This is hard to do alone.  Therapy is one tool that can help you out of outgrown mis-perceptions.

i will survive

This song is the mantra for many people who grew up in that era and thereafter.  I remember being on the dancefloor where there was always someone crying while dancing, yelling out the lyrics to the song, possbily after one beer too many.  Songs help people identify their emotions, express them and hopefully move on.  This is definitely a ‘I have moved on’ song.  Or more precisely, ‘I’ve moved on, but you seem to think that I will take you back’.

http://youtu.be/ZBR2G-iI3-I

Sometimes, we hold on to our anger or resentment long after the event has passed.  A person may stay stuck in the grief or the anger of the event that occurred.  It could be death, the end of a relationship, or another significant change that the individual has a hard time accepting.  Maybe there are others around this individual who say ‘get over it’ or ‘move on’ or something else along those lines.  It seems that others don’t understand the pain involved, and it may seem impossible to move on.  This is where psychotherapy can help possibly identify what the block is to letting go and moving on.

Is there anything that you are holding on to?

practice makes progress

Practice makes progress.  You can aspire to perfect, possibly, but only if this aspiration does not leave you feeling like you are eternally falling short.  Self esteem and self confidence come from doing esteemable things.  Doing those things that you would admire yourself for if you were to do them regularly, if they were part of your identity.  What could those things be?  Having plants that live because you are able to take care of them.  Pets that thrive and are happy.  Calling people back.  Not gossiping.  Saying no when you want to say no.  Asking for what you need.  Asking for a raise.  Being a hard worker.  These are only a few.  Some are big and long term – like having a pet, and some involve less steps, but not necessarily less intense – like calling someone back.

The other aspect to this is that you may be very successful in one area of your life – you may be very successful on your job; or successful as a parent or very outgoing.   Sometimes people hang their hat on their strengths and avoid looking at their limitations.  Part of becoming well rounded – emotionally, physically and spiritually fulfilled – you need to look at the aspects of yourself that are not working for you.

Working on improving some aspect of yourself does not take away your successes or your strengths.  In fact, often times, your strengths are usually the source of your weakness when in a different context.   Take a look at your strengths and your limitations.  No matter what you may be thinking, you do have both.  Are you feeling emotionally, physically, and spiritually satisfied with what you are doing?

 

you owe me nothing in return

Alanis Morissette – You Owe Me Nothing In Return

This is someone’s YouTube posting of mostly the lyrics of the song.  I was not able to find an actual video made by Alanis Morissette.

This song is intended to be from one person to another.  The general message is to be able to love someone else unconditionally – which is great and is something to strive for.  It is also a message against those relationships where basically, one person is held hostage in the relationship through guilting, blaming and or shaming.

The reality though, is that we are all human beings struggling to do the right thing and always imperfectly.   We all have needs and if we come from a dysfunctional background, we have not learned how to appropriately get those needs met.  There is a healthy ‘give and take’ in relationships.  Sometimes expressing your own needs comes to be seen – by yourself, as well as possibly others around you, as being ‘selfish’.  The struggle is, basically, to come to an answer to the question ‘am I being selfish for wanting this?’  The idea of unconditional love gets distorted.  An individual can find themselves stuck in a bad situation due to this confusion and distortion of unconditional love versus setting limits on someone else’s behavior.

This is a difficult topic to address in one posting.  In terms of this song, I hear it as being from a higher power, not another human being.  Your higher power can love you, and does love you,  unconditionally.  No matter how you act or what you do, your higher power will accept you and forgive you.  Even while you experience the consequences of your behavior, it is not your higher power that is punishing you.  You can express yourself and ask for what you need to your higher power, and your higher power will respond.   This is guaranteed, although you may not always hear the answer, or like the answer, your higher power is there for you.

Can you set limits on someone’s behavior and still love them?   Where does the other person end and you begin?  Are you making another human being your higher power?

 

just the way you are

In 2002, I was struggling with my spiritual life.  I basically didn’t have one and was feeling inadequate spiritually.  Whatever I did was not quite the ‘right’ thing or not ‘good enough’.  Then I heard this song on the radio while driving somewhere and it opened up my heart to accept myself and my spirituality just as it was.

Billy Joel – Just the Way You Are

You too, may be struggling with an aspect of yourself.  We get so much information from various places as to what is a ‘correct’ spiritual practice.  Inevitably, we are not as evolved as we would like to be, or that we think that we should be.  We don’t believe what we are told to believe, or lack sufficient trust to simply accept.  Development of your spiritual side actually is a lot of work.  A lot of work, that is done very slowly and at times is painful.  One of the first steps in being able to develop your own spirituality, is to accept yourself just as you are.

 

shame and isolation

Shame and Isolation:  these two states exacerbate mental unwellness.  Shame is essentially, believing in your own low self-worth; your ‘wrongness’; and often, shows your inability to forgive yourself – your sense that possibly you ought not to be forgiven.  If you are ashamed of yourself – your thoughts or your actions, it is very difficult to tell someone else.  There is the fear of being judged or scorned.  Isolation keeps you apart from others that may be able to give you a different perspective on your situation.

Shame and isolation are obstacles to healing because they block learning new ways of coping; of viewing the situation differently; or even of looking at yourself in a less harsh way.  The thing that keeps shame and isolation alive is your own belief that what you are thinking is true, is correct, and that there are no alternatives.  People close to you may also be telling you the same thing which only serves to keep things as they are.

Psychotherapy is one way of exploring these issues in a setting that is safe and free from judgment.  One of the tasks in psychotherapy is to identify and take responsibility for your role in your problems but let go of the immobilizing guilt or blame for things that you are not in fact responsible for.

When an individual is in depression/anxiety and/or a dysfunctional family system – it is hard to see the forest for the trees.  It seems easier to remain ashamed and isolated than to risk some unknown consequence for saying out loud the things that are weighing you down.

The biggest risk you now face is finding an individual you can trust.  It could be a therapist, a friend, a priest, or a family member.  It’s up to you to take that step.