By Licia Ginne, LMFT
“As individual persons, the conversations we engage in define the limits of our conscious awareness of ourselves and others. Minds need other minds to see themselves. Isolated minds know everything about everything, except about themselves”
C. Roger Hastings.
I have discovered that what creates lasting personal change is psychotherapy that understands our beliefs and feelings and where they originated. You could also call this educating your emotional intelligence. These beliefs and feelings set the foundation for how we relate to people in our lives and the world at large. It is the foundation of our attitudes and perspectives, our self-esteem and faith that we have in ourselves.
In-depth psychotherapy is based in the psychoanalytic school of thought. It examines early childhood experiences, the types of attachment, intimacy, how one feels about oneself, relationships with others, painful memories and experiences. The relationship with the psychotherapist is very important for it serves as a vehicle to understand how the patient relates to others.
Your first thought might be that it is Freudian analysis. Sigmund Freud was the creator of the “talking cure” and through the years different schools of thought have evolved from this early theory. Self-Psychology & Intersubjectivity are two schools that have blended the early childhood experiences and relationships with the current understanding of attachment theory and how the therapist impacts the therapeutic relationship.
It has been my experience that people who come in for psychotherapy have negative thoughts and doubts about themselves. As their awareness of their feelings and desires increase (growing your emotional intelligence) your options and behaviors expand. You can’t change how you feel but you can change how you respond to your feelings.
Our attitudes and beliefs are learned from our relationships. How people treat us reflects how we treat ourselves, especially from early childhood when we were the most vulnerable. It is not about blaming our parents or caretakers, but realizing they could only teach us what they knew and perhaps we were not given all the tools we need to navigate our way through life. We learned how to communicate, set boundaries, work with others and how to nurture ourselves in our families, or where we grew up.
Through In-depth Psychotherapy we come to understand ourselves in terms of these relationship models. We connect beliefs we have about ourselves to how others have treated us. For instance, you may have been taught how to prepare nutritious meals, but were never helped with financial matters. As an adult you find you are great at feeding yourself but your budgeting skills are weak and you need help with your financial matters. You may have come from a divorced family where your parents still cannot get along, so it’s a good guess that you were not taught how to resolve problems. Your parents couldn’t do it, so how could they teach you to do it?
In-depth psychotherapy is a talking mode of therapy: the therapist does not usually offer advice and is more apt to offer alternative perspectives or interpretations of the current situation, make a possible connection to where you might have learned it and how to know now what you are feeling and needing. It is a therapy that is about thought, insight, consideration and understanding.
We have two means of gathering information: one is through our intellect, and the other is through our feeling, or emotional intellect. We may feel cold and our brain says to put on a sweater. Most often people who come from a traumatic life have been forced to abandon one mode or the other at different times. You might be having a feeling but not know why you are feeling that way. At another time you may be able to tell the story but realize you are not having the feelings that might go with the story. When you have access to both, you increase the information available to you and increase the possibilities for resolution. When you can tell a story and have the feelings that accompany it you have joined them together.
Change comes from the relationship you create with the psychotherapist, a healthy relationship where your thoughts, opinions and feelings, needs and wants are taken into consideration and valued. You’ll be amazed at how successfully problems can be approached when you feel like a valued and wanted person. In therapy, you will learn how you make relationships, how you treat those in relationship with you, and how you would like to be treated.