The crippling nature of anxiety can be experienced in extremes and in varying degrees and can make a person feel like they are going in all directions at once: Potentially then in no direction:
I don't know why... but it hurts... I cannot do it... it's in my chest. No, I don't want to.
This paralysis is usually marked by an inability to move past the psychological barriers that prompt the anxiety in the first place and the physiological experiences that manifest in a person's body secondarily. A person suffering from anxiety may not even recognize that there are psychological preconditions (i.e. thoughts, ideas, memories) prompting the physiological, bodily experience. These thoughts and memories will often time remain unconscious because the thought of remembering them is often more anxiety provoking than the actually anxiety experienced. That is the really tricky part because for all intents and purposes "anxiety" is a natural response to potential or actual life-threatening events and if you are not confronting the cause of the anxiety your mind/brain will naturally respond to the threatening events your mind is imagining and that you, at the time, are unable to acknowledge.
THE PHYSIOLOGICAL DIRECTION:
This mental event takes place primarily in two major brain structures, the amygdala and the hippocampus. Both of these structures are inner organs of the brain, that is they lie internally to the neocortex which is commonly recognized as the "grey matter" that folds around the internal organs and is the primary differentiating part of the human brain. The neocortex is the portion of the brain that allows for higher thought processing, e.g. when a person decides between going for a walk or staying at home to watch TV. This is not to say that the neocortex does not access other parts of the internal brain in making these decision. The amygdala is believed to be a major contributor to the processing of emotions, "do I want to go for a walk?" The hippocampus is thought to assist in the storing of memories that have emotional content, e.g. "the last time I was on a walk a rabid dog chased me for three blocks," or "it reminds me of my deceased mother. We used to take walks every week."
Understanding the internal physiological components of anxiety is one direction a person can take to better understand the way the physical processes affect a person's anxiety. The amygdala has been shown in studies to be physically larger in children whom have identified traumatic early-life events. This is thought to potentially increase the individual's susceptibility to anxiety. Recognizing that there may be a strict physiological reason for a person to be more quickly triggered and for it to be less easily controlled can be stress reducing in itself. Psychopharmacological medications are another physiological direction that a person can take for affecting positive change when experiencing anxiety.
By Mathew Quaschnick
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.
The human body is a singular organism or entity that barring any unforeseen accident or cataclysm retains itself intact and un-ruptured--it is "one" body. This body is also ultimately and unsympathetically physical. Almost a redundancy to even state. The human psyche, on the other hand, is based on an assumed singularity, i.e. a self, an identity, a personality, etc. The "healthy" human psyche is thought to consist of one "self" and not multiple as alternately this would be considered a major psychiatric disorder: Dissociative Identity Disorder. Granted this singular identity or personality can be expanded upon to encompass a multiplicity or non-unary entity--An identity can incorporate being a mother/father, student/worker, child/adult, priest/sinner and on and on, but the main psychological thrust of any individual psyche is that it is a unitary, singular whole--a one. This probably sounds almost as trite and obvious as stating that the human body is physical.
The reason it may sound excruciatingly trite is that it has always been the case due to the experiential evidence, compounded daily, that overwhelmingly seems to validate and correspond to the findings--"I am one." The "fact" that you or I am a singular entity has been propounded, healthfully or otherwise, into our psyche since day ONE--birth. A non-healthy parent or less-than-adequate care-giver may not have driven this fact home which potentially lays the foundation for the individual structuring of a non-healthy psyche--the psyche may need wholeness and individuation to properly function. "May" because the human psyche is amazingly plastic and resilient and who is, let-alone-I, to identify and ceremonially declare--"here, here... This is the sane and sanitary psyche" and "this is what it looks like!"
This is not the objective of this article. The objective of this article is to place into question well held assumptions which have the potential of defracting the light that inevitably leads to illusory misinterpretations. These errors can insinuate themselves both into the external physical reality-based constructs we have of our environment(s) and our relation to it, while also causing disruptions of our internal psychological reality-based constructs of our internal psychic world. Some very basic assumptions may lead to very obscure and inverted representations that we then unshakably but erroneously hold onto and that seriously affect our ability to adequately relate to ourselves, others and the environment.
With the objective clearly stated, the thesis of the article is that the well-held belief/fact that we ONLY have a singular and unary body with a correspondingly individual and singular psyche is only "half" of the story when it is traditionally considered the "whole" of the story--or it wouldn't be so trite to identify it as such. What I want to highlight are the psychological ramifications of such a half truth and to not, in any way, suggest that these facts are not valid observations and constructs in themselves. The singularity of both entities is self-evident and pragmatically essential to healthy functioning--the problem is that it is only half of the equation that can lead to a more grounded foundational metaphor for what it is to be human--physically and psychologically.
Again it is firmly instated at the earliest stages of life that each person is an individual, regardless if one lives in a collectivist or individualist culture--barring subtle as well as striking contextual differences--the base and definitional grounding of each individual is that they are unique and singular. This can be validated in all cultures as each will have a process of some sort of differentiation, a la -- a proper name, which is the naming and individuating of the baby/child from the whole, and the other.
This naming, via designation, implies on all fronts, psychologically and physically that there is here and now a separate and individual entity. Again this article is not an attempt to disenfranchise this "fact" but it is to highlight instead the potential that this fact is only a half-truth. Writing this article is an act of individuation and symbolizes my unary-perspective: A perspective (upon multiple varied options) on the psyche and what basic and foundational assumptions can do to negatively or positively do to affect that psyche.
There are countless books, from religious to academic, that seek to suture the "fractured" or unhealthfully divided psyche. The perspective I am putting forward in this article is dissimilar in at least one major way to this objective: (1) Generally speaking the psyche, when fractured, needs to be maintained and re-oriented toward a virtual "wholeness" as countless books purport, but the struggle all of these varied books are unable to escape is this virtuality. All abstractions or conceptualizations that are totalizations, such as "everything," "nothing," "wholeness," "completeness," "totality" itself are always virtual as opposed to actual, that is they are always theoretical and cannot be found in the physical or externality. Wholeness is at best an idealization on a situation that is intractable or as Freud once put it interminable. There are many tracts: Logical, Philosophical, Mathematical and all of the sub-divisions within these fields, that this latter statement can be directed but that is not the objective, nor scope of this article.
This wholeness is an analog and code for "one" or the quality of oneness. Wholeness, oneness and the idea of being a singular entity
How is it possible to get to a location that you have never or not been to in a long time in your life? Depending upon the location’s proximity to your current location and if that proximity is distant it probably depends greatly on how many turns, right or left and the overall distance. Well if we continue with the driver/car and mind/brain metaphor the same applies to how you can get to a place of control or quietude regarding your psychological life's location. How far away are you from being able to easily control your emotions and/or your overall mood?
I discussed in Drivers Welcome: Part II how Imagery, Auditory and Kinesthesia (or Feelings) could be compared to the road or the thoughts in which we use as catalysts for our thoughts and how our awareness of these modes of communication information can be likened to the sun or the headlights of a car. Just as a car’s headlights illuminate the road so too can our awareness of these three modes of processing information as communications act as illuminating our thoughts. Therapy can assist in becoming better able to bring your awareness to your thoughts especially the more negative thoughts, the ones we DON’T want to think about.
The next step is initiating a road map. If you or I want to get to a location that we have never been to or at least have not been to in a very long time then we are best to get a map that will aid us in directing us there. Again this is an area that a therapist can greatly increase the speed or shortness of the traveling but there are things that can be engaged to assist us in our solo travels.
A map would traditionally have some topographical features to assist in orienting the reader. The topographical features of the map of the mind could reflect a traditional psychoanalytic perspective: Ego, Id and Superego or Conscious, Preconscious, and Unconscious or it could even take on a spiritual connotation: Father, Son and Holy Ghost/Spirit if someone was Catholic/Christian or the Tri-Kaya as the Dharma-Kaya, Sambhoga-Kaya and Nirmana-Kaya if someone was more inclined to Mahayana Tibetan Buddhism.
The problem with following a map of any of the above referenced is that there is considerable educational or cultural background that is required to begin implementing the suggested directions of the map. There is nothing intrinsically or internally wrong with the suggestions of any of the information on these maps its just that any specific individual may think that one of maps is better or worse or not even have the time or background to begin reading them. These maps are very complex and demanding of both time and personal space.
The road map that I would like to suggest takes one component of all of these maps and transfers it into a generalized abstraction of them all. It does not simplify the complex nature of the terrain but it does de-clutter and de-complicate the basic direction of the route. The map that I will lay out in a later post will potentially allow the driver to drive! and to drive much more quickly and safely then ever before.
By Mathew Quaschnick
In the previous article Drivers Welcome: Part I I discussed how a person’s mind can be loosely compared to the driver of an automobile. The driver of the vehicle is similar to the mind a person utilizes to maneuver their own body through time and space, through the ultimately ever-changing environments of their life. Just as a car has a gas pedal and a brake so should a person be able to slow or increase the speed or control of their thoughts, which would be the road(s). Please do see this previous article for a better foundation regarding the metaphor.
How to develop a better ability to control and navigate your inner world and how you relate to your outer world is a key component in therapy. What mechanisms can be put in place to begin better controlling your emotions and thoughts? Well the mind is a very complicated and curious place but there are a few basics that can be generalized to almost, if not, all people.
Imagery, Auditory and Kinesthesia (or Feelings) could be one way to simplify without creating too much complication or dampening the awesome complexity of being a person. Nearly all individuals engage these three sensory activities. Of course there are people who are incapable of sensing one or more of these modes of being the important factor is their informational and communicational aspects—All people communicate and process information. These three forms of sensing communicate information to the person and this information is translated by the individual's mind.
A person may be thinking or driving down the metaphorical road of thought while utilizing imagery by making pictures to themselves, auditory by listening to sounds the create or feelings by sensing physical feelings they can actually feel. People will utilize one, two or all three of these modes. One of the problems will be that they will more often not be aware that they are traveling through their thoughts this way and then the brakes and gas pedals are being depressed or disengaged without their knowledge or choice, aka their control. The “gas” can be quite simply compared to a person’s emotions, but emotions are quite simply one of the most difficult parts of the human car to control.
The images you picture, the sounds you hear and the feelings you feel are all part of the way you experience yourself and make up the road you travel down. The major differentiating dimension from the metaphor of the driver/car and the mind/brain is that with the latter there is also the internal road or world that we travel. This internal world can be as, or more difficult to travel, and as we have headlights on our cars and the sun to help us navigate the external world, what do we have to assist us with the navigation of our internal world?
The “headlights” or “sun” of the external world is comparable to our awareness, which we can direct inward to illuminate and cast light on our internal problems. Therapy can assist in directing that light so it can illuminate parts of our minds that we were unable to illuminate ourselves because we were too closely and intimately connected. Or possibly we were to emotionally connected to the pain that keeps us at a distance from the problem so therapy can be a way of us getting comfortable with the topics and then comfortable talking about the pain, thereby illuminating and dispelling it.
By Mathew Quaschnick
Just as an automobile maneuvers a street so does your mind a thought, both start and stop, as the vehicle navigates a whole city so does your mind the relationships or dissimilarities between thoughts; both continue, starting and stopping until the final destination or conclusion is arrived at. The most obvious difference is the mind’s distinct ability to differentiate the external environment, a street or city for this instance, from the internal thoughts, the mind’s own internal environment, about the city or any other object it is thinking about.
Troubles arise when the automobile’s driver does not see the green light turn to yellow and then, worse, red. This is so obviously devastating in the real world when an accident occurs; similarly with the mind, but usually with much less obviousness. The street an automobile travels is often illuminated by some source of light, be it a celestial object (sun, moon, stars), street lights or the head lights of the vehicle itself, the mind can have very dark corners a driver is often unable to or ill-equipped to navigate and satisfactorily maneuver. This is when a person may have an unfortunate instance of having a mental or psychological accident.
The human brain could be thought of as the car in the above metaphor and as it houses the mind, the driver could be thought of as the mind. This car is the most complex object in the known universe. How well is it’s driver acquainted with its mechanisms, operation and required maintenance? This being known, how much more difficult is it for any individual to adequately navigate the roads/events of their lives without having breakdowns or accidents due to its inherent complexity?
Not only is the car complex but the roads taken during the maturational process can be highly treacherous and danger filled. The young driver is incapable and ill prepared to handle the obstacles and pitfalls. The barriers and problems that are encountered are more often than not inappropriately navigated and the aftereffects that are not appropriately processed or “repaired” leave the vehicle in a state of disrepair. The driver is no longer able to freely and readily travel the roads that inevitably continue to present themselves.
Therapy is a way for the driver to reacquaint themselves to their complex vehicle and then to better be able to reorient themselves to the roads that they not only must travel, but, then will enjoy, once again, travelling.
The thought within your mind is a road travelled by your mind. The two are as intimately bound as is the car with the road it travels. Unlike the physical road and the car your mind can take “flight” and travel down roads that are so far up in the sky that there has not been yet a physical vehicle manufactured that could reach such similar heights. This can obviously be very good, as when you find a very creative impulse or devastatingly dangerous, as when that creative impulse leads you into a dark space of loss, despair and depression. Distinguishing how to moderate and thereby appropriately navigate how you create your mind-space or mind-set can assist a person in traveling safely.
How does one travel safely? Well, as with a car that has a gas pedal and entropy producing brakes, so does your mind need countervailing mechanisms that produce thrust or momentum and then reduce or eliminate that movement forward or backward when it is necessary and appropriate.
It is relatively simple to manipulate a gas pedal and brake after a few hours of instructed application. The same is not always true for instruction and implementation of the parallel mechanisms of the mind. The way the car has been managed are ultimately the most important factors for producing, re-engaging or reacquainting the driver to their throttle and brake: how well has the car been properly maintained and more importantly how roughly has the car been handled, by its owner and by those entrusted with its safety, i.e. its caregivers?
These factors will play heavily into how easily an individual will be able to begin to right the direction their car has been traveling and a therapist can act as a driver’s instructor.
By Mathew Quaschnick
The ways in which you communicate and accurately identify your emotions can lead to a higher degree of emotional regulation. This can in turn increase your confidence while improving your self-esteem and overall wellness.
If I wanted to put one cup of sugar into my pancake recipe but, instead, I used a cup of salt then the kids are going to have a big Saturday morning breakfast wakeup call when they take their first bites!
Just as salt and sugar are very similar looking ingredients for a recipe so are emotions and feelings very similar experiences for people. I think that the terms we utilize most often for labeling emotions can be similar and accidentally confusing them like salt with sugar can have very serious and long standing consequences.
Emotions are similar to feelings, and people normally will interchange these terms, they both have a physical sensation. But just as food ingredients will radically alter a recipe when confused so will your experience of your life be radically altered if feelings are confused with emotions.
(It maybe helpful to view this diagram of feelings vs. emotions as you read the rest of this article. You can toggle back and forth with the arrow keys in your browser or open it in a new tab.)
EMOTIONS vs. FEELINGS: Labeling
The two terms above are often interchanged but I believe that their assumed interchangeability leads to further emotion uncontrollability. They are vastly divergent things and are experienced in very different ways. While the two terms are often thought to represent similar experiences they are different in fundamental ways:
(1) Feelings are strictly physiological sensations, i.e. hardness, softness, tightness, emptiness, etc...
(2) Emotions have physiological sensations connected to them but also have a "story" or narrative that goes along with the experience, i.e. "I love ____!," "I am beaming with happiness [because I got the job]," "I hate that she did this to me." All of these emotions are going to have parallel physical sensations, some considered "good," some "bad."
(1) Both emotions and feelings are identified using a common word from the English language:
(a) Feelings: hard, tight, soft, cold, warm, etc...
(b) Emotions: love, hate, jealousy, sadness, despondency, joy, etc...
(2) Both have a physical sensation that is normally associated with the experience of them
So emotions and feelings have physical sensations that normally accompany the experience. However, it is this common bond that so often creates a blurred interpretation or misidentification. This may seem innocent enough but just as salt and sugar are "white granular substances" the experience of either is very, very different and their substitution gives you a VERY different result.
In therapy you can begin to untangle the emotional miscommunications that occur when feelings and emotions are unfortunately interchanged. Often the interchangeability of the feelings and emotions occurred at a very early age when the individual was not mature enough to know the difference. These miscommunications then can unconsciously act as a defense against unwanted emotions. For example: A parental figure tells their son or daughter, "you should feel ashamed of yourself!" The response of the child could potentially be very negative as they begin to bury their feelings and, instead, begin experiencing the emotion of shame.
This network of miscommunicated emotions and feelings can then actively restrict an individual's ability to freely and healthfully express their emotions, leading to anger management problems (too much unregulated emotion) or depressive symptoms (not enough or any emotional expression) and potentially many other psychological problems.
By Mathew Quaschnick
Take the first step...
"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
“How does therapy move forward?” and “why doesn't it seem to sometimes?” Nearly everyone who begins therapy will come up against both of these questions. Both questions are potentially very complicated to answer. Therefore, it will be the place of this article to only touch upon a basic way of illustrating some of the more general components of the processes involved. Then some of the complications people may confront will be introduced. As long as we keep it basic I believe that you will be able overlay or insert your personal experiences and then maybe recognize and prevent the stoppages and encourage the forward progressions.
The accompanying graph has two horizontal lines, which are labeled “Consciousness” and “The unconscious.” These can be thought of as the individual’s ability to be aware, i.e. conscious, and the reality that sometimes we are not so aware of some things, i.e. the unconscious. An example of how we are not aware or are unconscious of something is simply your name. Your name remains unconscious until someone calls you by it or you see it written or as you are possibly thinking about it just now.
So, back to the graph: The top line labeled “Consciousness” can be thought of as the materially physical and the temporal, time-dependent aspect. It is the part that you experience in you daily life and the part that your immediate awareness recognizes. The past, present and future are all on this line and you recall it based on its chronological order. The “Start of Therapy” could easily be the “start of the day” or the “start of the workday,” it represents the first session of therapy. Therapy continues down this line with positive, negative or “new” events.
Therapy, however, does not move forward as easily and obviously as would your workday or any other day of your life. Therapy is, or at least should be, a very different experience from your normal daily life.
The main reason why therapy is vastly different is the therapist should be looking for what comes out of your unconscious. This is unlike the interactions you will have with other people in your daily life. Normally people are just concerned with the “face-value” of what you are saying and how it effects them: “You want a Kit-Kat,” “Well I like Snickers.” The therapist is listening for your likes and dislikes, for sure, but they are not then comparing them to their own. The therapist is paying attention to your unconscious desire to talk about candy bars instead of the original reason you started therapy.
Now back to “why does therapy seem to stop?” Positive and negative events occur all throughout therapy. One day therapy seems to click and you really feel like “I get this and I like it,” but then the next week there seems to be something off and for that matter you don’t even recall any of the positive events from the last week.
A very simple way of illustrating this is the dynamic between the two lines on the graph. It is very easy to be happy or fulfilled by therapy on a good day where you experience what seems to be a positive movement forward; however, when that event is over, and for that matter even when a negative event is over, the idea of the event moves from your consciousness to the unconscious.
Now the trick is that once it is in the unconscious there is no particular temporal placement for it and it is not easily recalled. The positive or negative events are both moved into the unconscious and are held there with all of the other events that have occurred in your lifetime waiting for a reason to be recalled consciously or being recalled unconsciously or unexpectedly because there was an associated event, similar to when your name is called out to you. The unconscious does not “discriminate” what goes in or what comes out and does not therefore “stop” therapy.
What will stop therapy is the lack of communication between the therapist and yourself. The unconscious is always communicating to your consciousness. It is not always communicating in the language that you recognize. Why were you taking about candy bars again? It is the place of the therapist, their skill and experience, to build the relationship and rapport between them self and yourself, that is the communication between you and the therapist is model for the communication between you and your unconscious. This constant communication between yourself and the therapist mimics your unconscious and consciousness communication and will keep the therapy moving forward.
By Mathew Quaschnick
Transference is a psychoanalytic term originating in the early work of Sigmund Freud. The term has been utilized to refer to the same "experience" in therapy but, depending upon the theorist discussing the concept, it is always described in many different ways. This makes the term very unique, very powerful but also very difficult and sometimes useless.
The experience of transference occurs on the side of the the person engaged in therapy, that is it originates in the client's psyche. It is a psychological process that moves from the psyche of the client, via projection, onto the therapist. "Countertransference" is the term utilized when the therapist has the experience themselves. Just as the client is normally unconscious of the projection, so will the therapist not normally recognize or be conscious of the projection he imposes onto the client. The therapist may have the skill to prevent themselves from projecting and awareness to notice that they are projecting depending upon their level of skill and self-awareness.
The fact that there is a projection is what distinguishes transference, regardless of whether it originates in the therapist or client. However, to maintain a sense of simplicity and to entertain the idea in a basic way transference always begins in the client and moves toward, or is projected at the therapist. The essential qualifying factor for transference is that an emotion is engaged by and then elicited, projected by the client at the therapist and that the client then believes, consciously or unconsciously (more on the importance of it not needing to be conscious below), that the therapist behaved or acted in a way to warrant the emotion. The therapist, if conscious that he is eliciting the emotion can then investigate/analyze "why" the emotion was elicited, but if he is unconscious that it was elicited due to "transference" then the therapist is, at best without a direction to assist the client in healthfully processing the emotion--which is not good; and at worst, the therapist may become offended or lash out at the client--which is detrimental.
The therapist should know that the he should -- NOT -- engage on a personal, or directly emotional level with the client otherwise the therapist risks the relationship and any potential positive therapeutic value that is inherent to the projected emotion.
Jaques Lacan utilized what he called the "L schema" to assist would be therapists (Psychoanalysis calls a therapist a "psychotherapist" and a client and "analysand"). Without going into too great of detail the basic idea behind Lacan's schema is that the therapist should not engage with the client from a person-to-person, or ego based perspective. They should instead engage the client from the Symbolic Register (or Symbolic Level). They should attempt to remain in a virtual state of reflection and not submit to the emotions. What is the symbolic value of the emotion and NOT "why the hell did you [the client] call me a bastard!?!"
If the therapist doesn't know to NOT respond on the level of ego, or the Imaginary Register, then the therapy will more then likely devolve into an argument; thereby, greatly negatively impacting the relationship and potentially blocking any further positive therapeutic outcome. Transference can come from either direction but how the trained representative reacts to the individual situation is the key to any positive therapeutic outcome.
By Mathew Quaschnick
UPTOWN THERAPY MPLS
Edited and composed by Mathew Quaschnick
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1406 West Lake St. #204 Minneapolis, MN 55408
Monday - Friday: 9-5 PM with limited evening appointments
Uptown Therapy is wonderful. I have benefited greatly these past 8 months and am sure to continue.