Transform Deeper Struggles

The Inner Process of Therapy

 

Therapy is a collaborative process aimed at creating change and transformation in a person’s life. Depending on both early and ongoing life experiences we often develop an array of mechanisms to deal with the world. Both positive and negative experiences, traumas, and relational ruptures influence the psychological states that we come to inhabit and the set of coping mechanisms and defences we use to survive and/or thrive. Therapy aims to understand and process these psychological states to foster change.  

At our earliest we are vulnerable beings experiencing a plethora of overwhelming feelings such as anxiety, hunger, frustration, aloneness, and distress. The presence of a caring and attuned other over the course of our development assists us to regulate these states of mind and emotions. However, it is often the case that a parent is perhaps less attuned or worse inflicts harm on the developing child. In a sense during our most vulnerable we may experience acts of commission and/or acts of omission at the hands of others.

Acts of commission are events such as physical and emotional abuse while acts of omission are the absence of interactions that we need to thrive such as love, joy, and connection. These experiences can lead to emotional states such as anxiety, fear, shame, helplessness, and an unbearable sense of aloneness. These difficult and painful experiences often lead to the development of an array of defensive strategies.

Defences aim to shut down emotions and experiences that are sensed as being too overwhelming for a parent to deal with or feel. For example, a child might experience healthy anxiety, distress, or sadness to a given experience. However, if a parent reacts with ignorance, criticism, or rejection then the child will learn that it is perhaps not quite safe to experience these emotions. Similarly, a child may learn to shut off positive emotions such as joy and excitement if the significant parent cannot tolerate such feelings. In future instances and given enough repetition the developing child may learn to suppress and deny such feelings. In effect, internally doing the same thing to themselves that the parent has repeated in the past.  

This may come at an exorbitant cost later in life or when our defences no longer work. In adulthood, this child might find themselves cut off from deeper feeling, connection and intimacy with others, and aliveness. Having learnt to suppress and deny such feelings and experiences an adult may find themselves battling symptoms of anxiety, depression (hopelessness/helplessness), shame, and aloneness. It is these very symptoms but also our innate striving for change and a better life that brings a person to the therapeutic door.

It is the subsequent therapeutic process that aims to disentangle, realign, calm, balance, secure, and re-order. The therapeutic relationship and space serves as a platform where hopefully a client can grow and transform. A combination of qualities such as attunement, safety, and validation serve as important catalysts in our pathway to transformation. Therapy then involves not only assisting people to understand, regulate, and reduce their symptoms of distress but to also access and construct more adaptive experiences of the world and the self.