“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” – Sigmund Freud
I was never truly honest with myself. Not because I didn’t want to be, but because I didn’t know how to be.
I spent a long, long time trying to dampen down my emotions. It was entirely pointless, like trying to extinguish raging wildfires with a flannel and merely resulted in me hot-footing it around the edges of the inferno. What I needed was a full-on firesuit and the most powerful hose in existence. But where could I get me one of those?
I found my answer in therapy, which I referred to in my first blog. There are many forms of counselling available. For me, psychodynamic psychology tooled me up with not just with a powerful hose but also with breathing apparatus that allowed me to examine the fire, set about dealing with it and keep a watching brief on the pile of smouldering embers in case they reignited.
Psychology Today has an excellent explanation of this type of counselling. It is rooted in Freud’s psychoanalysis approach and has been developed by Carl Jung, Alfred Adler and Melanie Klein among others.
You sit with your therapist and speak about whatever pops into your head. The aim is to bring the unconscious mind into the consciousness so you can unravel deep seated emotions, express and understand them, and set about overcoming and resolving them.
Many early experiences shape our view of the world and we develop projections or defences to cope. Sometimes these are good but often our internal defences aren’t helpful and strongly influence the decisions we make later in life.
During sessions you are encouraged to explore memories, experiences and feelings which helps you recognise how emotions affect current decision-making – in a sense, show you how the child is still stoking the flames while the adults desperately try to put it out.
You learn to explore yourself through self-reflection and examination. You learn to recognise patterns rooted in unconscious conflicts and break free from them. You develop a better, more self-aware, understanding of internal challenges and develop new coping strategies and methods.
When I started my therapy I (rather naïvely) thought a couple sessions would ‘cure me’. Na-ah. As I got deeper into therapy and spoke more honestly, I got closer to the seat of the fire. Eventually, I was at the roaring heat of its centre. It was here that I had a nervous breakdown. But I didn’t run away from the heat –I stayed there. I had to put the goddamn fire out. I managed the breakdown with proper professional treatment; equipment that worked for me, not an ineffective damp flannel.
And my goodness, the benefits are so worth it. There’s the increased self-esteem, the ability to overcome limitations caused by deep-rooted feelings, the capacity and capability to foster better relationships, the confidence and competence to develop yourself and the endless, endless joy from new ways of thinking and patterns of behaviour.
These days I mostly feel epic. I feel free. I’ve got myself one hellova toolkit and can fight my own fires! I love knowing myself. I am amazed (and puzzled) at the capacity for my brain to develop new neural pathways and replace old behaviours. The ‘fire fire!’ warning alarm goes off sooner and I am able to whip out my firefighting apparatus and tackle the flames before they spread.
Hey, maybe I am actually a proper fully-functioning adult after all.