Due to new information lately, there is so much I want to write about and I decided to write about one of the main topics of the period for me, the process of psychotherapy through the experience of the psychotherapist (the writer that is).
I noticed that a lot has been written about the issues that are being addressed in a therapeutic context, but much less about what really happens in the therapeutic space.
Often people ask me: What are the differences between psychiatry, psychology, psychoanalysis and psychotherapy? Are you not influenced and burdened with people's problems?' 'What issues do you specialize in?' in an effort to untangle the external knot of knowledge: 'what different is psychotherapy to other therapies?' and the internal knot: 'sounds interesting work but luckily I don't need it', I have good friends', 'do you think I need it? What could I possibly face if I decide to to start therapy?', 'Do people really need it or do they become addicted to treatment in order for the healer/therapist to get paid? '
In no way do I pretend that psychotherapy would work for everyone or it is the only way of self-knowledge. Similarly, psychotherapy neither should nor can replace a friendship since its goals and terms as a relationship are different.
All these questions, thoughts and feelings are normal and human. In an unknown space anything can potentially happen, one of them is to feel threatened, so the mechanisms of protection and defence are activated to confront the threat, to ensure survival and not to suffer any losses. Exactly the same mechanisms (along with others of course) we helped us to become the most powerful being on the planet overruling all others.
But what is under threat in therapy (before and during it)? ... The identity and the sense of self.
Is there anything more scary than to enter in a place where you agree to explore who you really are, how and why you have made choices and what is it that you essentially asking for your life?
Psychotherapy actually began with Freud (psychoanalysis) as studies of 'abnormal' psychological behaviours that could not be explained based on the existing at the time model of understanding of human behaviour. Schizophrenia in the west was a disease while in other cultures it was considered a gift that some people had to communicate with other worlds.
Later, psychotherapy evolved with the study of the first relationships of a child as determining factors of psychology and behaviour (Psychodynamic, Attachment theory, Objects relation theory etc.). It continued with the study of human motivation and what it means to be human (humanistic movement), the existential problems of human condition (existentialism) and of course it ends with spirituality the (transpersonal).
It's an impressive step by step journey of the human spirit in trying to understand itself!
Psychotherapy (at least the one I trained in and offering now) is not only about healing, about what is wrong and what needs to be fixed, but mainly through the wound, the crevice and the need that was not met, about a deeper discovery of who we truly are in essence, what do we do in this world and what really makes us happy and in harmony with our environment.
For some people this quest is a waste of time as they have found their absolute answers in the enjoyment of consuming something material, in the structure of their lives as they are (e.g. family, work, etc.), in the orders of their religion etc.
In how someone gives meaning to his/ her own life, there is no right and wrong but what matters is what the person feels is important, worthy of attention and useful. of and for their lives.
As a psychotherapist I don't have a list in my head of what people who sit in front of me should do to feel good and happy in their lives. I do not prescribe drugs, nor do I give diagnoses based on textbooks as psychiatrists do. I have not studied thoroughly the research and theories explaining how many people experience something similar and what do they do to get better as psychologists do.
Having had my own therapy for years and continuing the quest for self discovery, I, firstly, sit opposite someone as another human being (yes with a specific education, with my own views and attitude in life etc). This relationship has no agenda from me besides the agreed terms of the therapy, which is exactly why I use the ' therapeutic agreement ' which explains exactly the terms of the relationship.
As another human being, then, who may be a little further on his exploration journey, I too have my own fears, insecurities, weaknesses and also strengths, qualities, truth and values. All of these are the things that make me human and eventually allow me to do this job, because I can resonate and relate to and empirically relate to a person's path of exploration and creation of a more authentic and creative Self.
Of course my experience and development may have limitations and that is why I do not pretend that I can necessarily help anyone who comes before me.
As another human being, I remember and understand that I do not have the absolute knowledge and that every person knows better himself and for himself; I learn from every person because we are all different; I recognise my areas of improvement both on a personal and a professional level; I follow sometimes as a spectator and sometimes as an assistant other people on their life journeys.
The whole of all these journeys is for me the totality of all mankind's journey that is part of the journey of all existence.
This is my first published text written firstly in Greek and, at all random, is inspired by the observations and the recent months that I live in Greece.
I often hear the word 'habit ' used with a sense of weight as if it is something very powerful that keeps us prisoners on a specific, repetitive route.
However, like everything else, in order to be whole, it has its other side.
And the other side of the 'monster' of habit that 'swallows' us when we enter it, is the Power.
'Habit' is not the faceless, innocent and uncontrollable underground corridor that people unnecessarily enter in the course of time.
When people fixate with constant repetition on behaviours, situations and conditions (dynamic relationships, daily actions, beliefs, routines etc), we do not do it randomly and without reason. This is how we construct our places of strength and safety. Within them we confirm our existence, we feel safe and we strengthen our stability every day.
A person with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) presents those behaviours to a greater extent. The person checks several times the devices before leaving their home, repeats the same routines (e.g.. hand washing) in the same way and all for the same need, to answer the feeling of agony, fear and dis-order.
Many people's childhood experiences of chaotic environments (the lack of systematic rules of organisation of the environment and relationships within it) was associated with painful feelings, such as the agony of punishment and fear as the environment (parents, other important, school etc) could not guarantee the smooth and stable reality and safety that comes with it upon which a person can base their sense of self. What is 'right', acceptable and ultimately beneficial for the environment (as society defines it) and for us may have been very or not at all specific and/or conflicting to each other.
What we want, what we like, what we feel etc and what we do and what we do not, what we reject, compose a sense of self consciously or unconsciously. All of this is under the umbrella of "this is who I am," and because they happen repeatedly, they reinforce that 'that I am'.
The sense of self and as it manifests itself through our actions gives us the feeling of security and stability we need in the world in order to continue to build our lives on a solid ground.
Lets imagine what would be like to wake up one day and do things differently or do the same things in a different way or we had 'different' desires and we were feeling different altogether?
How much more difficult and chaotic our world would suddenly become!
Or is it already so? Do we wake up with different thoughts every day, at a different parts of our bed, saying ' Good morning' in a different way, to different people, doing perhaps similar things in a different way or in a different time and living already in a world of uncertainty and constantly changing?
Aren't all these reasons to shake any sense of self that we created the day before?
My comment here does not aim to prove that habits are necessarily 'good' or 'bad', but to underline that in the 'space' of habit two things happen simultaneously: the 'surrendering' to a flow of action, result and state of being which is sometimes experienced as 'powerlessness' to change the habit (e.g. smoking) and at the same time the exercise of our own power (and control) to define ourselves and our world through our field of action, where the unknown is limited to the minimum possible. In that controlled field we became the kings of our castle and everything unknown, different or strange becomes our threat including other parts of ourselves, especially other parts of ourselves.
For the sake of our awareness, growth and freedom, shall we ask ourselves the next time 'who' and 'what' is served by what is happening and by what are doing?
With Love and appreciation,