Journeying Toward Wholeness

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What is Psychotherapy? Will it Work for Me?

March 23rd, 2014 · 4 Comments · what is psychotherapy

What is psychotherapy, after all, and how could it actually connect to my life, and make a difference for me?

what is psychotherapy

How could “just talking”  make anything real happen in my life?

Distorting Stereotypes of Psychotherapy

Well, that question captures perfectly the way in which the popular understanding of psychotherapy contains an unfortunate distortion.  As Dr. John Launer recounts, an early name for psychotherapy was “The Talking Cure.”  However, that name fundamentally misses the heart of therapy, especially Jungian therapy.

Yes, therapy is all about talking.  Talking is its tool and medium.  But good therapy is much more than “just talking”.

The distorting stereotype of therapy embedded in our culture is best embodied in the image of Lucy’s therapy booth from the Peanuts cartoon strip.

what is psychotherapy

Lucy in the Peanuts strip is not a character generally distinguished by empathy.  Neither is she a person who listens very carefully.  She does, sort of, hear the person out, then immediately delivers her own glib advice —  often not very suited to the client’s situation.  The price of Lucy’s services?  Typically 5 cents — and, we tend to feel, that’s about what they’re really worth.

what is psychotherapy

A better description of psychotherapy than “the talking cure” might be “the listening cure”, “the dialogue cure” — or, even, the “relating-to-someone-else-to-get-into-better-contact-with-myself” cure!

Psychotherapy and the Undiscovered Self

What is psychotherapy?  It’s a process of dialogue with the therapist, in which a person opens up key problem dimensions and areas of pain and potential growth in his or her life.  In the course of this dialogue, at least from a depth psychotherapy point of view, the individual explores feelings and relates the story of important parts of his or her experience, for the purpose of having it sensitively reflected back and fully explored.

During this exploration, the individual may relate dreams and many other aspects of their experience which involve the unconscious — the parts of her- or himself of which the individual has not previously been aware.  Bringing the previously undiscovered self into awareness can often give the individual a different sense of identity and life, and of value and meaning. This is a highly individual process, as Jung tells us:

 

 

Psychotherapy and Your Personal Journey

What is psychotherapy?  A process of dialogue that can bring you into closer and better connection with your deepest feelings and thoughts, and your own real life.  A journey of understanding, and making choices, for our real selves.

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  Some rights reserved by  Hey Paul Studios ; “Peanuts” © United Features Syndicate, cited for the “fair use” purpose of critical examination.
© 2013 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

4 Comments so far ↓

  • jamenta

    Jung’s autobiography is a remarkable touchstone of some of his most important ideas. I have found it worth reading many times. Transcribed near the end of his life – in his eighties – to Aniela Jaffe – it is one of the most profound books I have read in my own lifetime. I know too, that many so called scholars and academics would dismiss out-of-hand some of what Jung relates (and therefore his psychological theories as well) because he doesn’t hold back any of his experiences and observations in his autobiography – which even today, many modern psychologists cannot accept or relate to -just as Freud could not accept the sudden loud crack of wood that Jung predicted not only one but twice. (Although, Freud to his credit would later accept, for example, Jung’s insistence that dreams could and did contain certain transpersonal elements – i.e. such as telepathic/precognitive dreams.)

    It is unfortunate that depth psychology has glibly been stereotyped as “talk therapy” – and indeed, “drug therapy” has been promoted strongly for many many decades now (no small part being due to the profits made by the mammoth pharmeceuticals corporations). The psyche then is reduced to some kind of mechanical brain functions – with the implicit assumption once again of a reductive causal reality and that each of us are simply walking zombies.

    Jung had the courage to challenge this reductive viewpoint (as you can read in his autobiography) – which sadly continues to be held by so many so-called “psychological” experts today. Jung even split with Freud because he insisted there was far more going on within the psyche than a simple hidden repository of repressed tendencies or archaic sexual urges.

    Perhaps even more breathtaking concept that Jung writes about in Memories, Dreams and Reflections – is his psychological theory of the transcendent function. The individual then is not left at the mercy of the whims of the ego, but neither should he/she enslave himself to the false God of socially accepted values of the masses – i.e. accept some authority that lies outside himself – or attach himself to roles and values that hides his/her own unique story of self-realization. It is – though a kind of anathema, to the current drug-biased psychology/psychiatry to even venture the possibility of transcendent values lying within each of us – that lie within the unconscious that forms our dreams, our streams of consciousness, even the ego that we experience as the awareness of I. Just then describing all this as “talk therapy” belies what I think will end up standing the test of time – that Jung was way ahead of his time – and even misunderstood today, and yet his theories still have not been conclusively disproven but rather continue to resonate with those who are willing to – see, do the work, and take a very close look at their own psyche. Peace Brian.

  • jamenta

    ps: Thanks for posting the comment Brian. This is my own personal interpretation of Jung’s writings, and may not be completely accurate of course.

  • Brian C

    Thank you for your extensive, and very insightful comment, John. I agree with you that
    Memories, Dreams, Reflections
    is a wonder of a book — the autobiography of a psychological genius late in his life, when, with his undiminished abilities, he is able to survey the whole path of his personal journey, and the growth of his highly unique and profound psychology.

    Jung’s whole focus remains “individuation” — the path of becoming of the particular unique individual that he found in front of him. It is always very much about understanding that individual’s unique path of becoming for Jung: he is always cautious of avoiding reductionism, that is saying that the individual’s problem is “nothing but typical…” — fill in the blank: depression, anxiety, compusion neurosis, or what have you. He is always concerned with the individual’s unique challenges, and with what is trying to come into being in the individual’s life through the interplay of the instincts, the archetypes, the individual’s particular life story, and, as you say, John, the transcendent function.

    While it’s true that, for a long time, psychological science was pretty reductionist in its outlook, and basically treated the human mind as a blank slate, all that is now changing with the neuroscience revolution and developments in evolutionary psychology, as outlined by psychiatric researchers such as Anthony Stevens and Robin Goodwyn. Jung’s emphasis on the unconscious underpinnings of individual psychological existence is being more and more vindicated.

    Thanks again for you comments, John!

  • jamenta

    Thanks Brian. Anthony Steven’s books on Evolutionary Psychiatry & “The Two-Million Year Old Self” look intriguing. I have added them to my long list of want-to-read books. Important that Jung insisted his work was grounded in empiricism. Regards.

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