Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Love can heal (another way to talk about Imago)

I think we all have a sense that some kind of healing can occur in relationship (hence the notion of the psychotherapy as a focused relationship). Not to infer that woundedness is a neccessary part of intimacy.... but rather that relationship is a mirror... and the better the mirror the more likely we are to bump into pieces of the self we've not wanted to deal with or feel through.
In romantic terms, when love touches a wound... there is always potential for growth or healing. The problem is that touching a wound always evokes pain. Wounds, by definition, hurt when touched.

It can be disorienting and confusing that something that feels good... can also feel so bad. The person you're coming to love can make you feel all kinds of frustration and pain. It's easy to tell them they're too much of this or not enough of that... when really it's usually that you're working against yourself to try again to bury that uncomfortable unresolved thing inside of your psyche. The burying it would work but for the fact that whether submerged or not, it's still there and always ready to be evoked by intimacy (or unconsciously projected out onto the world. This is that notion of the world as toxic threatening unsafe entity).

In simple terms, when we are putting the other into their own unresolved feelings and woundedness... the work is always counter-intuitive. The work is always to push towards the other person and not away. The choice is to embrace the discomfort that comes up. To try and understand it and work through it not as coming from your partner... but as originating from the self and your own developmental relationships. To be loved and accepted in adulthood, when your early attachment experiences involved all sorts of conditions and tight spaces... brings up a kind of greiving for all the times you needed to be loved for who you are and instead had to conform to what was available.

I guess what I'm trying to get to is this notion that pain can only be experienced in the now. Pain is always now. Its an obvious instinct to move the painful object out of your path. But much like light traveling through space and across the universe from millions of years ago... that pain can belong to the past. There's always this choice to make to throw away your partner to avoid the pain.. or to trace that light across time and space back to its origins... and then heal it. That picking away of the scar tissues... that is....


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dancing, Comfort, and Electrical Outlets.

I told a close friend that sometimes I spend the day comforting people and then telling them to lick the electrical socket, and then comforting them, and then inviting them to lick the outlet again. There is a distinct madness to therapy.
 I want to describe therapy as having two polarities: Seeking comfort, and discovering pain. People come into therapy because they are in pain or because the things they use to soothe pain stop working and/or create even more pain. So, the therapist is often in a position to give comfort and to nurture the patient through the pain (via grounded/informed/genuine empathy). But then we direct the patient to relentlessly uncover repressed or hidden pain so that it can be worked-through.  Entire sessions can be built on the comfort of the conversation and the relationship to the therapist, while other sessions can be a horrible threshing into pain and frustration and injury to the psyche that were previously unknown to you. Usually both are happening at the same time.
Therapy is a confusing process. To seek comfort and awaken to pain all at the same time is no small undertaking. The therapist’s instincts, style, and own ability to tolerate and make sense of psychological and emotional pain comes into play (this is where theory helps). The role of the therapist involves nurturing in a grounded, real and appropriate way, while uncovering repressed pain. That is the tightrope. That’s the dance.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

For the single man (shortcuts to being not too depressed).

I rarely get a chance to give advice. You'd think it would be a big part of the gig, but it's more true that people need to be heard and to see themselves though something more than they need (my) advice. And even if I do give advice, no one listens to it. The best advice comes from listening to yourself. That being said, fellas.. if you're a single guy,  in the middle of the divorce or the break-up, or you're a creative type with a depressive orientation, or one of Maslow's "Transcenders"... I've got one simple mood enhancing piece of advice:

Make your bed every morning.

Coming home to a well made bed, falling asleep under clean sheets somehow, inexplicably matters. No matter how jacked up your life is at the moment.. fight this fight for yourself. A well made bed has an existential impact. I know it's trivial... but it is the little things and its much easier than an anti-depressant.

Go make your bed and do it like it you mean it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Elephants, Rooms, and Icebergs: Conversations about the Invisible World.

If there is one fight to be had in therapy, it’s the fight to connect the brain (the conscious self) to the mind (the sub and un-conscious self). We all have a psyche, and that psyche lives large in the domain of the subconscious, invisible, and almost ineffable world. The visible world, the world of our conscious desires, intentions, and feelings is merely the tip of the iceberg. Vast swaths of the self exist just outside of the visible spectrum… and a good therapist is someone that’s equipped to work in the darkness of the submerged parts of the self. By definition we are translators of that invisible world.

There are no direct entry ports into the psyche except  looking at the relationship with the therapist (the infamous transference) and the resistance to the therapy. The most obvious pathways in appear underneath the conversation, and somehow are communicated non-verbally (Stolorow calls this phenomena UNAC or unconscious non-verbal affective communication). There’s always this struggle in therapy, it presents uniquely with each patient, it erupts in tangible ways that appear to have nothing to do with the deeper meaning, and these things can only be commented on and made conscious if the therapist is connected to his own internal dialogue, can hold the framework as a kind of seismographic rendering of subconscious process, and can muscle through and into the relationship. It’s always in the therapist's knowing before its in the patient's understanding. It takes enormous trust and confidence in the process (and an ethical therapist to not exploit your time and money). It's never clean or effortless and usually evokes anxiety in the therapist (don't worry, we can handle it. It's supposed to go this way).

 Yes, there is this notion of the therapy as a place to seek refuge, to relive the week’s sturm und  drang, and a place to work through ideas and complaint. There is also this living thing there in the room waiting to reveal. It always reveals, and more often than not the patient rushes to check out right as it shows its face. The brain wants to avoid the mind, its too vulnerable, too rooted in early desires and longings, its too foreign, and too big. Most of the time the therapy is about holding the patient in place until the subconscious and unconscious process peaks through in the therapeutic relationship. It’s at that point in the room that the real fix can occur, within the relationship to the therapist… when so much more than what was previously visible and knowable is on the line.

The best part of the therapy exists in the moments that you want to quit, feel locked in, feel trapped, or want to shut it down. There’s so much more going on than meets the eye. I have to convince the patient to stay a little longer to see what happens… and every time they do… something comes. As any old school analyst will tell you it’s all about interpreting resistance.