Earl Grey Tea

I find myself wanting things that are predictable. Earl Grey tea is something I can count on. It tastes the same every time. It’s easily recognizable. I don’t have to guess as to what flavor the tea is. As a new psychotherapist I found it very hard sometimes to figure out what my patients were trying to tell me. Sometimes I felt completely lost. However, after I graduated from my Psychiatry residency over 22 years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet a Jungian psychoanalyst along they way.   I began my  work with him individually about ten years ago and still work with him today.  He taught me there was a way to recognize things.  To listen more deeply.  He gave me a knowledge that nobody else had offered me in the past. I drank it down like a good cup of tea.   Once I realized what I hadn’t been doing,  it made my work so much easier. I began to listen for things I have never listened for before. I guess it’s similar to also recognizing a flavor of tea.

Relying on science isn’t useful in psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is not like working in a hard science. It’s about emotions, feelings and experiences. Sometimes we feel the emotions in our bodies. Psychotherapy can be very painful. It is not my job to cheerlead my patients. I can’t come up with solutions to make them want to feel better. That would be me being uncomfortable with watching their pain.  It is my job to listen and try to understand how they feel. I don’t have fancy scans or blood tests to figure out what’s going on.  Instead, I have my listening skills. I rely on past feelings. If my patient tells me he feels like a failure again, I pay attention to when we have talked about this before and  ask him what it feels like to feel like a failure. We learn from his feelings. We learn from his experiences.

Psychotherapy is not like a friendship

I don’t pretend to be an expert in psychotherapy, but have enhanced my skillset over the years.   Sometimes people believe psychotherapy is like talking to “a friend.” Unfortunately, that is a way to devalue the experience of psychotherapy.  Hopefully,  by the end of therapy, we have learned what we need to learn. We might learn that we  really don’t want to change. Or we might come to know that “we are the enemy.” Whatever it is, my job is to walk alongside my patients and to accept whatever it is they feel they want and  need.


My New Blue Door

Yesterday I finally painted my office front door a vibrant blue. It had been the black I painted it a few years ago because I thought that went better with the yellow siding. I think my contractor had suggested it and I went along with it thinking he knew better than me about what I wanted. I have never liked the black but it was “ok.” I discussed colors with my teenage son who has a very good eye for this and we decided on Benjamin Moore’s Pacific Palisades Blue. I didn’t realize it at the time we picked but I needed a change that this door would come to symbolize. Without getting into details I knew that something needed to shift inside of me. That I needed to start seeing myself differently in order to move on from something. In essence I had been stuck in one facet of my life. Yes, even us immortal therapists struggle with being stuck sometimes. I needed a new door to open and I had to have the courage to walk through it. So I did. It was quite liberating and freeing. It feels great!

Stuck feels like a four letter word

Frequently I deal with my patients who are stuck. Sometimes, but rarely it unsticks quickly. Other times it can go on for a very long time. I find it mostly in the stories they have told themselves. It usually involves their self worth. That my patient  believes she deserves far less than than she does. That she must settle for crumbs. I can’t tell her she deserves more and expect she will instantly  believe it. She must do the inner work and determine this for herself. I do of course tell her that she deserves everything she wants. It will require going deep inside to figure out why she doesn’t believe this in the first place. It can be a long and painful process, but the only way through it is through it.

It takes as long as it takes!

Sometimes it can take years to get unstuck and walk through the a new door. It can be terrifying.  We can imagine all kinds of bad things happening.  So rather than risk it we stay stuck.  Getting unstuck can be a lengthy process. The insurance companies would have us believing it’s a matter of weeks , maybe a few months to unstick. I don’t agree. I also know   it doesn’t matter how long it takes. In my supervision with a Jungian analyst I used to wonder how long it would take my patient to become unstuck? This particular supervisor always said “it takes as long as it takes”! He was so right. I must be patient with my patient and stick with her through her difficulties imagining a different life for herself. One where she has what she wants instead of struggling to have it. One that lets her walk through the new door and into the life she deserves. My job is to simply walk along side her while she is finding that door.

What new door do you imagine opening for yourself? What in your self proclaimed story needs to change?

Happy Thanksgiving!