Psychotherapy For Adults
You probably don’t see yourself as being on a quest. You just want help with:
· Unexplained physical pain and illness
· Relationship or family troubles
You might think, or have been told, that these troubles—or symptoms, as we call them--come from brain chemical imbalances, bad experiences, or even destructive self-talk. Maybe. Partly. But those miss the deeper meaning of your struggle. Symptoms are encrypted messages, secrets waiting to be told.
Symptoms, like depression and anxiety, are encrypted messages, secrets waiting to be told.
For example, depression might be a message from your past, a disappointed yearning you long ago swept aside: yearning for a closer relationship with a parent or a meaningful role in your family. Or it might be a message from today: your work, relationships or life feel colorless and shallow. In any case, symptoms mean you’re unhappy. But symptoms can tell you what you’re missing and why you’ve missed it. And the suffering they cause, painful though it can be, presses us to do the priceless work of self-exploration.
The Instinct for Self-Knowledge
We need the truth about ourselves in order to grow.
Like bodies need food, and plants need light, human minds need truth. We have a kind of instinct for truth. And the truths most nourishing to life answer questions like these:
· Who am I?
· How have I gotten to this point in my life?
· What makes me proud?
· What makes me ashamed?
· What makes me make bad choices?
And this one: what, if not our respect and care for self-knowledge, makes human life worth living?
The Stewardship of Self-Knowledge
Self-knowledge may feed the soul, but our culture treats it almost like poison. (You can read here a natural history of self-knowledge as imagined by Miriam Voran.).
Psychoanalytic psychotherapy protects space for your inner life; this creates a richer engagement with yourself and with others; it also nurtures humility and patience.
Against the cultural odds, psychoanalysis saved self-knowledge. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy protected space for our inner lives: our thoughts, feelings, sensations and perceptions, memories, imagination, dreams and daydreams. Therapy lets us speak our minds until we get comfortable with ideas we once pushed aside, feelings we half-knowingly ignored and stirrings we’d never noticed at all.
Some of those stirrings are fears, and fears stir up defenses. Psychotherapy searches for those defenses, traces them back to the fear that provoked them, and finds the wish that raised the fear. Defenses like intellectualization or digression alert us to the wishes being avoided and reasons for avoiding them.
As you gain self-knowledge of defenses and their origins, you’ll experience your mind as richer, more vital, more dynamic. You’ll better tolerate anxiety, and as your tolerance strengthens, novel and sometimes fascinating experiences will tend to emerge. The troubles that brought you to therapy will tend to resolve and fade as you forge a richer engagement with both yourself and others. These are some of the fruits that your search for self-knowledge will gather.
Self-knowledge also breeds humility and patience, it teaches recognition and acceptance of limits. Even self-knowledge, you’ll discover, is limited: it doesn’t burst forth in one glorious epiphany; it emerges from the disciplined and systematic care of the soul, the slow and patient cultivation of the inner life. Self-knowledge grows not by force, but by gentle guidance.
Self-knowledge takes time and hard work (for details, see My Approach). My approach, grounded in psychoanalytic theory and developmental knowledge, and supported by scientific research, offers much more than shorter-term cognitive-behavioral treatments. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy can change personality traits and initiate mental growth, growth lasting long after treatment ends. It can help make you the steward of the treasures of your inner life. If you want to learn more, contact me.