Thinking can prevent you from both saying and doing many things. Thinking is not saying or is it doing/acting. Thinking is always and ever a virtual action until the act of saying or an actual action is affected.
Doing, saying and thinking are participles and they modify nouns: "What is John doing?" They are a type of verb, which functions to express actions and are similar to adjectives as they also modify actions.
A person can engage in the action of saying something or doing something but wouldn't it seem somewhat odd to say that they were engaged in the action of thinking? Not entirely and I am not attempting to claim that thinking and acting are mutually exclusive behaviors. People just usually make an overall distinction between thinking and behaving, and that they are never the same thing.
But I would like to distinguish and clarify some basic human functions: behavior (acting), saying (language) and thinking (cognition), so it may benefit the process if one was to distance and distinguish the terms.
Ultimately it is probably the case that all of the terms are synonymous and are only differentiated for pragmatic, utilitarian, and everyday reasons--"I am thinking right now about the action I would like to take." Further it is quite possible that some instances of mental health disfunction are based on how an individual's extreme differentiation of these processes (thinking/saying/behaving) lead them to focus too much on any one of the three to the detriment of the others and themselves.
For example: Someone may engage in the behaviors of working, blogging and dating. Any behaviors/actions can be inserted into this chain. All of these are examples of someone doing something. The question regarding mental health would be then to what degree (quality/quantity) does this individual achieve the outcomes they desire regarding each behavior that they have consciously chosen to engage? Ultimately, what barriers do they place before themselves (normally unconsciously) and conversely, what barriers do they encounter that are not self-imposed but that they are incapable of overcoming? Was it simply a goal too high and out of their range?
Let us say that for this example the individual we are referencing is proficient in a descending ability: They are very good at their work life, they have moderate ability to blog and their dating life is abysmal. Why would it be that they are incapable of transferring their capabilities to function very effectively at work to boost their blogging ability and then completely transform their dysfunction at dating?
The simple answer is that they are assessing the data points related to the other two tasks in a different manner than the task that they are proficient. Granted these "tasks" are highly divergent when viewed from the outside but once an individual begins to analyze the individual components in a objective, abstract and metaphorical way, that is through psychotherapy, then the associations and similarities begin to become quite evident. When the similarities are uncovered the potential for change is engaged because the unconscious barriers are discovered through comparison with the higher functioning behaviors, aka work in this example.
There potentially are little to no barriers in some parts of your life. Let's identify those!, no matter how small it may initially seem, because it can be utilized to cast a bright, shining light on the other areas that are troubling and undiscovered.
"What gives?" Therapy can be a very difficult process to begin, to continue and then even more to complete. While therapy is a complex process there are specific parts of it that, if recognized, can make the whole process much more fluid and potentially productive. So instead of trying to tackle a massive question like, "how does therapy work?," instead, let's discuss one aspect: "What moves?"
Everyone engaged in therapy wants therapy to move forward and at some point come to a positive and healthy conclusion. Regardless of an unexpressed desire that happens to short-circuit or obstruct the forward movement, and this does happen much more often than one would think, the fact that someone actively attends sessions implies that they do want to get past their current problems.
So, if we focus on the "what moves" therapy, then we may be able to keep ourselves somewhat more focused and productive in therapy? I would not be so bold as to state that there is only one component in therapy that moves therapy, but I would like to put forward that there can be one thing that does contribute greatly to this forward progression: Desire. It, like therapy, is a very complicate idea. It has been discussed throughout entire books and by many authors: Jacques Lacan, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze.
One way of looking at desire could be to put in contrast to wishing for something. "I wish that I didn't have this problem." or "I want ("want" being the more common usage for word "desire") to be free of this problem." A person having a wish is the same as someone desiring something but for someone to desire something they are also taking an active role in attaining whatever it is desired. This doesn't mean that they will get it and while wishing is a very important part of the psyche, desire has this active component.
So desire is active and potentially "what moves" in therapy because, simply put, moving things are active. Wishes are important, "wish fulfillment," but unless there is the active or desiring component the wish remains stagnant and inactive--similar to wishing upon a star--AND good too, if that is getting your childhood creativity moving -- wink, wink!
However in therapy we want to focus on things that can be actively worked on. The "what moves" therapy forward toward lasting change, and a positive therapeutic outcome.
Wishing is not desiring but you can desire to attain a wish. Is there another way can we think to get desire moving? Otherwise we are just saying desire (is) active and wishing (is) inactive? Everyone gets thirsty, everyone needs to eat and more so everyone NEEDS to breathe. These behaviors are "hard-wired" instincts and all people are compelled to satisfy them. My article on deep breathing has a fun way of describing this.
Most complex organisms have instincts but there is only one that desires. Jacques Lacan's theories about psychoanalysis has the most thorough and extended explanation of desire and its relationship to therapy. He states that while all animals, those with complex nervous systems, have instincts; but, only those that have language have desire. An ability to communicate does not mean or qualify one to have language.
Language = Desire.
Language is distinguished by Lacan via the "Symbolic Register" or the ability to manipulate symbols. Lacan distinguishes purely animal communication from human language by the human's ability to make symbolic representations, i.e. written language symbols, e.g. hieroglyphs, pictographic/ideographic. The animal does not manipulate such symbols, while they do definitely have the ability to manipulate sounds and even concepts through their body movements, e.g. a pack of wolves hunting, they do not have a system of externally representable symbols, i.e. a language, such that distinguishes homo sapiens.
The reason that this is important for the movement of therapy and positive therapeutic outcomes is that our language overwrites our instincts and thereby creates desire. This does not happen in animals. Animals have "pure" instincts and do not seek or desire "Lucky Charms" cereal instead of "Cheerios" to satisfy the instinct of hunger. Again, the choice or preference for one or the other is complicated but the animal does not have a network of symbolic associations related to their food. The animal could prefer Lucky Charms but they wouldn't because of the cartoon character or because they are "magically delicious."
"What moves?" Well desires! But desires can be thwarted or actively stopped by others whose own desire is in conflict with yours. This can cause problems. Especially when you are a young, vulnerable child who is desiring very basic needs: Security, both emotional and physical. If these needs are not met then psychological complications can ensue.
It can be the place of therapy to get things moving and my article on the movements and stoppages in therapy can be a place to learn more about this.
By Mathew Quaschnick
UPTOWN THERAPY MPLS
Edited and composed by Mathew Quaschnick
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