"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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