Why do we put ourselves through it …. this therapy business?
I like to think I have offered a lot of positive encouragement on this web site. Doing small safe experiments can help us live a better and a more satisfying life. Just for this moment, however, I decided to be ‘Devil’s advocate’ and be contrary for a moment. A bit of devilment.
Two people meet and present parts of themselves to one another. Some of those parts are visible. There are other parts that are kept private. Is therapy intended to narrow that gap? It can, but it is not a requirement and it is a process that cannot be completed.
Overtime, we present more of ourselves to other people – but not all there is. This is inevitable because there is no such thing as total disclosure. There are parts of ourselves we do not even know we could disclose. These are our personal unknowns.
That is why I included the Johari Window in this web site. That ‘window’ makes it clear we can take a scenic route to greater awareness – of ourselves and other people – but that does not mean we will reach the bottom right hand corner of the Johari Window.
Another way to view the process is to use the Iceberg metaphor. This metaphor, show below, may not be easy to read but it offers eight levels on which I can present myself to the world. It offers another eight levels on which you can do the same thing. Work out the combinations should the two of us decide to make a relationship one with another!
To complicate things even further, Systems thinking suggests the two of us, when forming a relationship, set up a very different, third Iceberg – a combination of you-and–me.
Can’t get that into my diagram so can I leave that to your imagination, please.
This is ME ………………… and this is …………………… YOU
So how does this metaphor play out? My behaviour may be visible to you – after all, you are reading my words, now How they are to be understood may be an issue so do give me some editing hints! By doing so, we could talk about that asp[ect of my behaviour. How I respond might still not be seen as sensible by you but I’m likely to defend my way of doing things, even against all the odds.
Either way, we both have feelings about what we see and notice. It is not easy to convey these feelings. It is rather too easy to tell me how I should feel, rather than accept the labels I offer to you in any conversation.
It will rarely cross my mind to describe the sensations I notice when certain feelings or thoughts are around. The Body Scan does help here but, too often, I will take my perception of the world as ‘gospel’, the ‘truth’ or simply as a ‘given’. You might argue with me about the way I express my perceptions. That might become an argument between two people; about the way the way each of us view the world. Could it become one of those unique events capable of triggering a valued change? Arguments do not generally do that.
I need to accept and absorb an alternative idea in my head, rather than be ‘told’ it by you. Even teachers of children and young people soon learn that is a human need too often overlooked.
The Iceberg Metaphor, above, goes on to say that the drivers of my perceptions arise from a series of expectations I create over time; ‘givens’ about the way I want my life to proceed. A useful safe experiment I have offered to couples is to take time to explore their expectations of their relationship. I advise people to generate their expectations on their own – before talking about them to their partners. That way, we can discover just how far apart some of our expectation are!
Those expectations often say less about the real world we live in and more about the yearnings we have about the way our world should be. My therapeutic issues arise when there is a large gap between my perceptions, my expectations and my yearnings. There is only so much gap I can live with. As the gap widens, I become more and more unsettled. In my trade, that gap is called ‘dissonance’ and it can occur when my ideas are mismatched (cognitive dissonance) or my feelings and attitudes are out of kilter (affective dissonance).
In the real world, I might be increasingly inclined to diminish that dissonance by blaming my nearest and dearest for its existence, rather than consider whether there is something I can do about my dissonant experiences.
Now, if after all that, I can start to unravel the crossed wires that exist within me relating to these eight levels – as described above – and you can do the same thing – we would then need to unravel the connecting lines between the two of us. Also, what about others who surround us? Romeo and Juliet had lots of problems in that area as both were from the ‘other side of the sides’. It was not just about other people, but also about Verona, the place in which they lived.
If all these complexities can be acheived and resolved, then it is just possible that I will have a rare glimpse into myself or even myself-with-you. This glimpse is so rare that many people have tried to explain what the self is and, for the most part, we have not come up with a consensus definition of this shadowy entity.
Therefore, in short, there are many levels on which I can become stuck. There are many more levels on which we can get stuck together with no sign of a door marked exit. The prospect of seeing a light ahead is very small. The level of discounting becomes a problem.
And, even then, I am not too sure if it is the light at the end of a tunnel or simply a train coming towards us!!