How do I know what I'm feeling is right? Is psychotherapy for me? | psychotherapy | Blog

There's something very private about the experience of pain, and what is pain? When someone seeks to engage in the process of psychotherapy there's an implied demand to be rid of something . . . an unbearable painfulness, an imbalance, a feeling of stuckness or paralysis, a difficulty in living and loving. This might encompass a sense of feeling overwhelmed by something riddled with complexity and troubling to articulate. 

There's a plea for freedom, freedom from constrictive patterns of relating and being. And if we feel “fragmented”, how can we be “put back together again”?

If we already feel “in pain”, what would be the driving force to invite more pain? Perhaps in the form of destructive relationships, self-harm, substance abuse, obsessive thoughts, negating one’s needs and desires. How might imagination, idealism, creativity and hope be recaptured – to be able to envisage a different way of living?

Much has been written in psychoanalytic literature about the deconstruction of the symptom. That, unlike the cognitive behavioural approach of aiming to rid the anguished soul of their symptom(s), the focus is on these symptomatic clues (or “self cures”) in terms of what the internal torment is really about; what needs to be articulated in an unmasked way. These expressions of pain need to be unpacked and translated. In this sense psychotherapy becomes a co-project of meaning-seeking between client and therapist. The core of all therapeutic work revolves around the client's relationship with and to herself and the possibilities of living that might reveal themselves as a result. The question emerges: Who can I become? 

Psychotherapists speak endlessly about the “true” and “false” self. The polarity between that which feels right and authentic versus something uncomfortable, compromising and moulded by the (so-called) expectations of others. If the focus of talking treatments is largely “inner world” (thoughts and feelings), we need to delineate the ebb and flow between this and “outer world” in order to make sense of how the two are constantly affecting each other. To think about the difference between a painful external trigger – like losing a lover or a parent – and that which we do to ourselves. 

“I'm working on not thinking too much right now, and when you're working on not thinking, it's hard to think about other things even when you want to.”