A key task of psychotherapy is to help someone understand their own cognitive and emotional processes better. It is often the case that our own ways of thinking, feeling and behaving are so habitual that we take them for granted. Because we can’t see them clearly, or see them at all, we don’t question them.
One to one, a psychotherapist has various ways of bringing those hidden or unrecognised processes into conscious awareness. Since we have no choice over something we can’t see, self-awareness is especially important when established ways of thinking or habitual emotional responses create an unhealthy and self-defeating cycle. Once our habitual responses are recognised, we have knowledge, insight, and therefore new choices.
This article is about one method of getting to know yourself better that can be done alone, outside the therapy room; a method that can also enhance what happens in psychotherapy sessions: the left/right journal.
One of the key insights in psychotherapy is that an event in itself doesn’t have meaning: events gain meaning through the personal filter of the experiencing individual. Four people at the same event, because they have four different filters or expectations, will experience it in four different ways. Using the imaginary example of observers of a fight in a car park, this article explores personal filters and their role in making meaning. We conclude with an explanation of what this means for the process of emotional healing in psychotherapy.
A panic attack is an experience of being overwhelmed by unresolved emotional trauma, an event in the past revisited in the present as if it is happening again. The long-term therapeutic resolution of that trauma is personal and therefore different for each person. In the short-term, the psychosomatic (emotional and physical) alarm response may be calmed by an exercise which brings the person back into the safe here and now. The first part of this article explains the therapeutic theory behind the body calming exercise; and the second part is the exercise itself, available as a downloadable MP3.
The key task of counselling or psychotherapy is to raise a person’s awareness of their own processes, to help them become attentive to their habitual patterns of thoughts and emotions. Of the four basic emotions – happiness, sadness, fear and anger – it is often the case that a person has learned that one emotion is ‘bad’, that they aren’t allowed it, that they should resist feeling it.
This article outlines the purpose of emotions; why some are blocked or ‘banned’ in some families; how an ‘approved’ emotion is used as a substitute; how the banning of an emotion can lead to a repeated cycle of unresolved feelings; and how psychotherapy can help.