I watched that show In Treatment with Gabriel Byrne. I enjoyed it. I’ve watched about 3 seasons of it. What strikes me is that there is always antagonism and misunderstanding between therapist and client. There’s always a struggle and misunderstanding and tension. On the positive side, I suppose that shows that it’s really a relationship. We see conflict in Paul Weston’s dealings with his clients and in his dealings with his own therapist. It’s always an argument.
Is that bad?
When I think of my own experience in therapy, counseling and being ‘in treatment’ with doctors and others, it has generally been more benign and friendly. There isn’t much confrontation. The one time that my treatment was both quite confrontational and productive, it was a bit of an extreme and unusual situation and I kind of needed that ‘kick’.
But generally, it’s unwelcome. To my mind, therapy that involves conflict and confrontation – therapy where you are arguing with the therapist – is not helpful.
Helpful therapy is like a game of tennis. After initial introductions and you telling your story, the therapists serves the ball, trying to get it to land in the right area – they make a suggestion about your issues. And then you say something like, yes, that’s partly true but there’s more to it…..you hit the ball back, again, trying to land it in the right place….then they respond….and so on. Together you work towards an understanding of the problems and ideas about some solutions.
I suppose that, to make it good TV, in the show they have to emphasise the conflict aspect. But also, as I alluded to, the more extreme situations and issues – which will also be the most interesting – do require the therapist to challenge the client.
That’s why Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is, I think, one of the best therapies, especially for people with issues that are causing them a lot of distress. Because, in DBT, the emphasis is on the dual action of challenging maladaptive thoughts and behaviours while, at the same time, affirming the positive qualities, achievements, merits and value of the individual.
When I read things that I wrote in the past, I clearly see the incongruity between what I thought and felt and what I wrote. Like, something might have been a big deal to me, but I barely mention it. The text is basically about that but I hardly write about it.
That reminds me of how, in his poem, Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour, July 13, 1798, Wordsworth doesn’t actually mention the abbey itself, and how deconstructionist criticism suggests that that’s because the abbey was a major influence on the poem.
It also reminds me of Jung’s idea of the ‘shadow’. The things that we repress, influence us more than anything we are conscious of. And Harold Bloom writes that ‘Every forgotten precursor becomes a giant of the imagination’.
But I’m not talking about repression and consciousness, I’m talking about thinking/ feeling and writing. So, it’s interesting. Maybe there is some correspondence between the transition from subconscious to conscious and that from our minds, to what we express in writing. And actually, I’m sure that Bloom would say that that is the case.
In fact it’s one of the central tenets of his theory. Bloom uses Freud’s concept of the way our minds use certain mechanisms to defend themselves from perceived threats, and one of these mechanisms is repression. Writers use tropes and figures to evade the literal in ways that correspond to these mechanisms because the literal represents death (to the poet qua poet) – the ultimate threat.
So there you go. When I express myself I am actually being quite creative.
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I’m ’round the corner from anything that’s real
I’m across the road from hope
I’m under a bridge in a rip tide
That’s taken everything I call my own
This is from a song by U2 called ‘One step closer’. I like it. Have you ever had that feeling that all real meaning is elsewhere?
It seems like other people have something of value to impart and I don’t.
It’s funny how, when you feel like that, it comes very naturally to act in a way that isn’t likely to lead to reassurance. It’s like, when you feel sorry for yourself, you’re sullen and sad and not very giving or friendly, and other people have no sympathy for that. The thing you need most is friendship and warmth but no one wants to give it to you because you’re not being very friendly. And then – just when you’re already being very critical of yourself – it’s easy to get even more so. You start blaming yourself for not getting for yourself what you need…..you’re trapped by all these vicious circles.
so, thank god for Grace.
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name
It’s a name for a girl
It’s also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything
I am the only self I know. But knowing yourself is a strange thing. It’s not like knowing someone else. Just like you can’t see your own face, you aren’t aware of your own self. Other people see qualities in me – good and bad – but I don’t. We rely on a mirror to see our physical appearance and we rely on responses from others to get a sense of ourselves.
But we also get to know ourselves by having a kind of relationship with ourselves. It might sound weird but we really do this. It’s healthy and good.
How does that work? I suppose it must be based on the fact that there is so much about myself that I don’t know.
And that’s also what makes relationships and interactions with other people worthwhile too. Like, when you are having a conversation and you say something funny or interesting, it’s as funny or interesting to you as it is to the person you are talking to. It’s new and surprising to you even though you said it, because it comes partly from this self that you don’t fully know. You don’t know what this self is going to say.