How do you change? In the type of psychotherapy that I do, my basic premise is that we are often not aware of how we are living and how the choices we make and the thoughts we have shape our lives and define us. We often act mindlessly and automatically. We make choices and have assumptions (often limiting beliefs) without being aware of what we are doing, how we are thinking and how this is affecting our lives and the lives of the people around us.
The first step is to see clearly what is really going on now. In order to do this one has to be honest with oneself. Actually to be completely honest is difficult because there is so much that we ignore because it causes us pain or makes us anxious. Psychotherapy can help open ourselves to the full range of our thoughts, feelings and reactions. Psychotherapy is a process that creates an atmosphere that allows you shed the limiting beliefs and assumptions that developed along the way to help you in the past and to discover and develop all aspects of who you are and who you can be.
As one examines one's life sometimes we discover (sometimes painfully) that so much of how we react and the beliefs we have were shaped by our prior experiences and abilities at that time. Ways of living and thinking that we developed a long time ago often are no longer needed and only limit us now. Sometimes it becomes (painfully) clear that we are living in ways that continue to reinforce beliefs,assumptions and behaviors that really never got us what we really wanted, but just got us through the stress or anxiety of the moment then. And so often we are unaware of what we are doing or feel trapped.
On the other hand, we can also be totally unaware of all the resources and strengths that we actually have. There are capabilities and a wealth of wisdom and creativity that we don't access. Because of old fears and our tendency to narrow our vision to survive the moment we block out parts of ourselves.
I believe that in therapy you can learn (through scientifically proven techniques) how to increase your awareness. These techniques allow you to become aware and see how you really are living in the present, how your actions affect others and yourself. You can learn to see the pattern of your thinking and how it automatically occurs, often without current evidence that it is true now. And you can change. (see my blog post on "living on automatic").
Through simple skills it is possible to become more aware of the moment-to-moment choices you make and the actions you take. We need to be aware of how we think, to see the automatic pattern of our mind's reactions. The very first step to be able to step back from the automatic reactions of our thinking and feeling. One does this without judgment (easier said than done). And it is important to realize that mistakes are always made. My experience has been that we (and our parents) did the best they could given all the history and realities that existed for them and for us. That doesn't mean you may not be pained or saddened by what happened but just accept that it occured and you do not have to be defined by it. You can learn from it and go beyond your history. We are not defined or determined by the past. Although Dr. Phil has said: The best predictory of future behavior is past behavior. The most important moment in life is NOW and that is when change occurs. When we are the most human and can create our lives and not live by instinct and simply react and survive.
Good therapy helps you not get stuck in such repetitiive thinking and mindless actions. Good therapy helps you go beyond just knowing your history. Insight never cured anyone. Action in the face of uncertainty, fear and anxiety is what allows for growth. Being in a trusting environment with a therapist helps.
Whether big or small, what you chose to do moment to moment and how you think determines how your brain actually functions and consequently shapes future thoughts and behaviors. Our own minds are shaped by actual experiences but also by our decisions and the way we choose to think and react now. With awareness and understanding and intention you can begin to make better choices and create a better life. Just by doing this search for information you are expanding your own mind and seeing other possibilities.
As far as techniques, I have been trained in a variety of scientifically validated skills. These includes interpersonal psychotherapy; mindfulness based cognitive behavior therapy, hypnotherapy, NLP and group therapy. Everyone is unique and one technique and theory does not fit all. I use whatever works with each individual person to help them see more clearly how they are living their life and help them recognize what they can do and need to do. Often people have to face what they need to give up and stop doing. This is never easy.
I try to help you make it possible to do what is not easy.
I think one of the most important things I do with people is to show them that that there is hope. However, I will also tell a patient when I think they are in a situation that is hopeless (i.e. I have told patients that I think it is a losing proposition to try and make the relationship they have described get better) (I have advised people that it appears that they are at a dead end and need to look clearly at what else is available now).
I do not think I know what is best for someone else (I struggle with many decisions myself) but I will offer my opinion, experience and explain why I think what I do.
Many people have thanked me for my honesty and candor.
My efforts are to help people make better choices when they feel they have no choices.
I have been trained in a variety of "techniques" but I feel that in the end what really works is the ability of one person to connect to another. What does that mean? Studies have shown that it is often the quality of the relationship that is more important than the specific technique. Being in "rapport" with someone is an essential human ability that can and needs to be comtinually developed in all of us and in every relationship. Between patient and therapist it is essential. I think someone should see several therapists to see how different people practice whatever "therapy" they do, before choosing one.
Feeling comfortable with a therapist is essential. But not to be challenged by that therapist and not have your thinking stretched is not good therapy. Therapy should be more than support. Good therapy must help you challenge yourself to stretch your thinking and how you live your life.
Although insight is important, in itself, it never cured anyone. Having a map of the landscape and history is important but just knowing what happened doesn't free you.
But by learning to see clearly and be more aware of what is actually happening is essential. Developing your ability to focus your attention and make better choices, rather than be trapped in the repeated endless negative stories of yourself is the path to mental health. Allowing yourself to feel the full range and intensity of emotions rather than to live constrained and restricted is a step towards living a full life. Good therapy must encourage you to challenge yourself on this path. You cannot change the past but you can change the way you think and feel and react.
Does change really occur? Recent scientific research has shown that the brain (and mind) continues to grow throughout life. We continue to learn and current scientific studies have shown that living by intention, by making deliberate conscious and mindful choices, physical changes occur in the brain structure itself (new neural pathways new connections are created at ANY age).
And then these new neural pathways help facilitate new thinking and new ways of reacting to old stimuli.
The ability to see clearly is important but change is usually not a sudden flash but a gradual increasing awareness and an increasingly clear perception of how we are living. It is a thousand conscious and unconscious events that shape us. By developing our minds in psychotherapy we develop the opportunity to see new possibilities and make better choices and you can create the life you want.
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