I am fascinated in the relationship Jung and Freud had, from their closeness to their bitter separation. Concealed in their letters to each other there is an undertone of power and righteous ownership bathed in hermeneutics. I imagine a fight to the death and winners and losers. An evil cock fight wherein the bloody struggle is fought in the basement, while up on the roof and out in the open, theories fly proud like flags. Everything seemed to be at stake, as each man’s questioning of the others views called into doubt the others explanation of his whole life.
I notice this juxtaposition or power struggle with my analyst, when theory is thrown at each other, or should I say, when I throw theory back at him. I have found that I tend do this after an episode where my true self has opened up. I may have cried and felt hopeless and vulnerable during a previous session. When I have shown him my underbelly I feel like the powerless underdog, who is unbalanced, so I try to regain control through theory and debate. I wonder who taught me to compete this way and why I feel the need to compete and to win and what indeed was the prize? For whom is the battle being rein-acted for.
For me, I have made most of my important gains, and losses, where no theory exists. When our relationship is paramount and we share special moments, thats when the sparks fly. Rare and heartfelt admissions, on my analysts behalf, seem to rebalance our relationship and enable tenderness. It allows me a sense that we are together on this journey, and that it’s our journey, not just my own personal gravel path. In fact when my own analyst qualified, his analyst said to him; now forget all you have been taught and throw all theory out of the window. Perhaps he is my Grandfather.
Three years ago I entered therapy again for the second time. I arrived wearing a smart jacket, and I was ready to do business. I had 5 years of therapy in my twenties so I was there for some CBT. Six sessions or so and this anxiety would vanish, there was no need to dig deeper, I had done that before. Resistance ran high when my therapist stated he did not practice CBT. I pressed, and asked for two sessions a week, like I had last time. I could do this for a while and then I would be sorted. My therapist cleverly recommended that we should start with one session and I reluctantly agreed.
I can see now that from the very start I was trying to control a situation where I had no control. My first and only child had been born prematurely, who I desperately wanted to see, and I was in a sweat. The dark clouds were circling once again, a storm was brewing up. I did not know who I was or what I stood for. Was this a breakdown? I would sit rocking and shaking one minute and be telling jokes and cracking people up the next. I now refer to this time as my nervous breakthrough. I had come apart. Without realising it my dark self had totally overshadowed my true nature and I was split right down the middle.
A long time after this first session my therapist told me that when he first saw me he thought that I looked like a boy in his fathers clothes, they were too big for me. He thought, this is a boy who needs a father! When I told him about my new born son, he thought, well if this boy does not have a father, how can he look after his own, and there goes the panic. He said he usually finds that on his first meeting with people his instincts usually hold a key. Timing was crucial as I think if he had told me his instincts from the start I would have ran a mile.
The big question that comes up time and time again in therapy is results focused. Is this therapy doing me any good? Is it making me worse? For me, I have discovered that therapy is both those things. If indeed a false self was created as a child, as a way of coping with deficiencies of their parents, then a deep groove has been cut into oneself, a pattern has emerged, one branch of the tree has began to grow away from the main trunk. Trees do not grow straight, they bend and bow towards the light, so part of us slips further and further and more distant from our true nature. As such, much of my anguish is based on a fixed idea of how things are supposed to be, but when that idea is not met, my nemesis the wolf comes in and shows its teeth.
In one respect I am now reading situations with more clarity, like never before, a new fresh day has come. I know when I am angry and I can breathe deeply into it, disappointments no longer resonate as much, these feelings always pass. In another respect I feel that I have regressed with my feet placed firmly in adolescence or even earlier in the labour of birth. Neuroses seem to have intensified and generalised anxiety can be heightened to what can seem like a dangerous level. I stay in much of the time as I feel that its only the wolf that wants to go out and dance with its ego. So the once unnoticed driving forces I was unaware of have been illuminated, there’s nowhere to hide anymore, the process is fully underway.
Many Psychotherapists and scholars believe that we cannot ever change intrinsically, and I believe this too. However, the wind now makes me smile, I watch stressed out children and my eyes are filled with tears, the grass feels amazing beneath my feet and I tickle my back at night and it feels good. If I acknowledge all the rough edges of my humanness – Pain, Courage, Fear and Celebration and I ask myself if Therapy is working, the answer would be that I am learning how to love more deeply. The heart is breaking open and communion with oneself, just occasionally, has a sacred order.
I yearn for understanding, and yet I fear, I am further from the answers, than ever before ~Abigail Baker
During my first 5 years of psychotherapy in my 20’s I worked with an female therapist in her 60’s and I found it extremely uncomfortable articulating my sexual fantasies with her. I would mostly avoid the subject, but if we did go there, I would box up my fantasies and make them very generic, tame and watered down. For example, we never explored certain fetishes and their possible meanings for me individually. This was one of the reasons that convinced me that a male therapist would be vital second time around. However, I guess if I did reveal things I was truly ashamed of, the real fear would lie in being abandoned by ‘anybody’ whatever their gender.
I still find it uncomfortable discussing the real nitty gritty, I cringe and squirm and beat around the bush, but I do disclose eventually. Oscar Wilde once said “Sex is the refuge of the weak” and that rang true for me in a sense that I tended to gravitate towards sex, or thoughts about sex, when I wanted to avoid emotional pain, which was quite frequent sometimes. In as much as talking about my once hidden fantasies made me feel on edge I knew there must be something lurking underneath worth discovering. When we are uncomfortable we are extremely close to touching on a nerve, and sometimes if we can bear it, we need to step into these darker clouds.
What is extremely difficult is having solid memories about what actually happened to me when I was younger around sexuality and how these experiences developed and got transferred onto my relationships as an adolescent or as a man. While memories of this kind may not establish themselves, due to their elusive nature, feelings and sensations do. Our thoughts and associations around sexuality can hold some real insights into how we view ourselves. Our fantasies and turn on’s may seem strange even to us, but for me I noticed a pattern, in that the fantasies needed to be fuelled and made more elaborate over time which highlighted the fact that these fantasies were built layer by layer. Underneath these fantasies and roles lies an internal message of who we may be which is intrenched in power and dominance or submissive traits.
Sexuality poorly repressed unsettles some families; well repressed, it unsettles the whole world ~ Karl Kraus
About 10 years ago a friend of mine played me a tape of Eckhart Tolle. In his unique and eire voice, Eckhart spoke of being depressed and alone in his flat in London. One morning in desperation, he said to himself ‘Why do I keep doing this to myself.’ He then thought, well if I am doing this to myself, there must be two of me. This was a huge revelation for me at the time and this dual internal premise has stayed with me ever since.
The internal on-going commentary we stand victim to on a daily basis can be relentless and life consuming. It can be quite startling when it is unpacked and looked at to see how deadening and stagnant these thoughts can be. There is a voice that berates us, tells us that we are no good, and convinces us that something dreadful is about to happen. Replacing these thoughts with positive ones ‘Californian style’ was my first port of call, but for me, I realised this did not work in the long run. Simply hearing the thoughts, allowing them to drift by and not judging them, akin to meditation, seamed to be the way foreword.
Realising and accepting that there is a part of me that is battling with my true self, a part of me that keeps me locked up in open prison, and wounds me, is painful. The inner voice loves death, risk, sex and drama and like a wolf watching a group of campers from afar, he will never come close. There is no taming of this beast, it cannot ever change, only my perception of him can. Realising that this ego will always have a voice is hard to except but some voices are louder than others and perhaps one day I can turn mine down to a whisper.
I had been anxious and depressed for years and suddenly I was deeply at peace ~ Eckhart Tolle
There are endless stages during analysis. Like floating in the sea you are continually tossed around. Sometimes forwards, sometimes backwards and sometimes downwards. Constant movement and chaos without an absolute end result to cling to. It takes courage and perseverance to continually lay out your often out of date thought patterns and beliefs. I often liken it to peeling back the skin from an onion. Bit by bit, layer by layer, the premise being to get down to the inner core. Some stages are painful while others are liberating and some moments seem to change perceptions for good. Some sessions can make you feel like an unprotected and vulnerable child and the following session had me feeling that way.
With my head in my hands sitting up on the couch I was trembling, anxious, emotional and distraught. I wanted to ask my therapist something. It felt so child like to ask and I imagined that my question would not receive the answer I needed to hear. My therapist never gave me advice, it was up to me to work things out by myself, and to ask this would feel like a school boy error. I felt like I was falling into pieces, my emotion was overwhelming and finally after what seemed like 30 mins of deliberating on my question, it just came out. ‘Am I going to be alright?’
The silence seemed to last forever when my therapist finally said ‘I don’t know’. His answer did not dry my tears, nor did it stop the deep pain I was experiencing but I knew that he was telling me his truth. How could he possibly know I was going to be 100% alright. Like a child bearing pain I wanted to hear ‘of course you are’ or ‘this is just part of the process.’ What I was left with was an unfamiliar feeling of realness, that I was connected to something truthful and right. That moment is when I fully trusted my therapist and the first moment I truly trusted anybody.
We’re never so vulnerable than when we trust someone – but paradoxically, if we cannot trust, neither can we find love or joy ~ W Anderson
There are crucial moments during therapy that somehow transform the relationship between the patient and the analyst. For me, this relational aspect of therapy is the most important factor in helping the patient familiarise themselves with the lighter and darker aspects of their psyche. Uncovering your true nature is a never ending long drawn out process but sometimes the fast forward button is engaged and we both seem to leap forward. These moments are seldom planned and just seem to happen naturally in their own time and space.
I was talking away on the couch, just like any other session, when my therapist interrupted me politely and told me that he needed to use the bathroom. He apologised and told me that in 30 years as a therapist he had never done so before and how it was very unorthodox of him. Left on my own in the room for the first time I began to project. Am I literally ‘dumping’ all my problems on him? Gosh, I feel honoured that he felt comfortable enough to leave the room to use the bathroom! Is he using the toilet as an excuse to simply get away from me?
When he re-entered the room again we began to discuss my previous projections and we laughed and joked together about them. It did not pain me to laugh at myself and where my mind liked to run. I felt special, and joined in union with my talking buddy. We had reached a new level of closeness and I was deeply touched by this event.
Sometimes you can walk into therapy with a bunch of issues that you want to discuss, and then, something happens during the session, and words and theories are left behind. They vanish completely, and in the silent space, a new dawn is created and hope shines forth like a diamond.
We need others. We need others to love and we need to be loved by them. There is no doubt that without it, we too, like the infant left alone, would cease to grow, cease to develop, choose madness and even death ~ Leo Buscaglia