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.
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.