Thursday, June 21, 2012

No guts, no glory

Though I am not a strict Jungian, by any means, I am a huge fan.  Indeed, I am as quick to see where Carl Jung was right as I am to see where Sigmund Freud was wrong-- which is to say, really really quick.  One of the things Jung was really really right about was the multi-functionality of the Mind.  He said there were 4 ways of Knowing:  Intuition, Sensate, Thinking, and Feeling. 

In fact, from this perspective, therapy can be described as a process of heightening and balancing each of these functions.  Learning to strengthen the Intuition is one of my favorite past times.  

A simple exercise goes like this: go with your first thought, see what happens....
Our over functioning brains are often highly neurotic.  Tapping into your intuition via your first thought lessens the neurotic brain.

People come in to therapy to find answers.  The answers come from within themselves, of course, not from what I tell them. I just provide a little extra information, so they can make an informed decision based on their experience and a light education about themselves.  From the research we know that experience and education are key in making good decisions.  Someone once asked me how I felt about the fact that people didn't do what I told them.  I said that I was more concerned that people don't do what they tell themselves!

An example goes like this: A man was learning to date again after a bad breakup.  In his pain, he was picking partners who treated him the way he was feeling inside-- which is to say, like total shit.   A new contender appeared on the horizon, so we discussed the signs, see what he could see.  This new option looked very different from the old pattern, on the outside.  However, in their brief interactions, some red flags were thrown.  Not knowing what to do about the red flags, he continued to invest with this new love interest.  Then some more red flags came out. Then some more.  Each session we'd go over the facts, the feelings, the fears, and get a read on the overall picture.  There was red everywhere.  But! Intellect and Feeling can lead you awry, so we also cross checked it with his gut, because the gut only knows truth.  And the gut said "no."  So now his Intellect, his Intuition, and his Feeling functions all said "no." But he still needed to know for sure.  So, he played it out.  It went badly. We laughed about it in the end.  No shame, just little by little we're hoping to increase his trust in his Self.  

Here's another example:  A woman was thinking of applying for a job. The salary was not sufficient to meet her needs, the position was not at her level, and the work life/real life ratio was waaaaay off-- traveling 3 hours to and from work each day, etc.  Not only did the job not pay enough, she'd be actually losing money on the cost of gas.  All signs read "no".  Still, she fantasized about how good it could be if only x, y, and z could be tolerated or changed.  In short, she was willing to tolerate the intolerable and try to change the unchangable, but not willing to listen to her own guts.  How did we get so off track and come to distrust our own Intuition?

It's a question for another blog.  Intuition has long been considered inferior to Logic and Reason.  Don't know why it got a bad rap, but it's not true.  Go with your gut!   Learn to trust your guts again.  Think how much needless suffering you (wouldn't) miss out on!

Stay tuned for next blog on Proper Usage of all things therapy-ee.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Pain Portal

There's this phenomenon I see each day, working with people through all the ebbs and flows of life.  The phenomenon is so brilliant, that my Human Brain absolutely forgets it, and then has to be shown it again and again, constantly.

What I see in others, and from what I have experienced in my own life, is that pain is a portal into a (magical) world of Healing.   Don't believe in a (magical) word of Healing?  Ya, me either. Even though I see it everyday.  We in the West prefer to see our pain as the problem to be solved.  We have a harder time understanding that the pain we're experiencing in our lives is but a symptom, a rumbling up from deep within us, and an invitation to Heal.  What we need is a new perspective about our pain.  But how?

Let's first agree that our brains are Lamborghinis.  We have at our disposal one of the most amazingly engineered and powerful machines on earth.  And we have no idea how to use it.  There's an enduring myth out there that we only use 10% of our brains.  This does not seem to be backed up by evidence.  However, what may be closer to the "truth," is that we only understand a small percentage of what our brains are actually capable of.

What is the Human Brain actually capable of?  Well, the Sistine Chapel comes to mind, as does the Guggenheim Museum in Spain, the Brooklyn Bridge, Mozza on Melrose, WWOZ New Orleans Public Radio, the entire City of Portland, Oregon, those Lavender Shortbread cookies at Trails Cafe in Griffith Park, and about a billion other shimmers of magnificence.   But how does this evidence of our Lamborghini Brain help us Heal?  Well, the same mental power that fueled the Race for the Double Helix and led to a great discovery about our DNA, is the same source of ingenuity that forms thoughts, images, and ideas everyday in all of us.  Turns out, our thoughts, about Healing, and about everything else, are very powerful.  And "with great power, comes great responsibility."  We just gotta learn to drive our Lamborghinis right.

Now think about the last time you experienced pain.  It can be physical pain or emotional pain.  Whatever the cause of the injury, regardless of it's origins or expressions, wasn't the result some amount of Healing?  Whether it was a paper-cut or a broken heart, though the immediate sense was that of pain, ultimately, we tend to Heal.   Without our pain, we don't Heal.  That simple.

Our Brains sometimes confuse and complicate this.  The Brain is a chatty little thing, probably the chattiest 3 pound entity in existence.  It's in constant conversation with the Body, as well as other parts of the Brain, and other Brains it senses as well.  We just gotta clear the way so our 3 pound chatty Lamborghinis can really stretch out, and the rest seems to solve itself.

I see people everyday whose lives are transforming.  Their pain, their reason for coming into therapy, opens the door into all kinds of healing potential that would not have been possible by employing a narrow view of pain management or simple symptom reduction (though I'm obviously a fan of pain reduction whenever appropriate).  Many of us have developed a huge tolerance for our emotional pain, and not even know it.  If you don't want to Heal, that's ok.  It may either subside in time, or it may worsen. But if you're interested in Healing, know it's all there for you, through your most painful parts.  Our pain is not a sign of weakness, nor a fly to be swatted away, despite the cultural current to the contrary.  It is a portal into a (magical) world of Healing.

I'll see ya there!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Great Article, HuffPost

Ya know, I just couldn't have said it any better myself.

Hope you enjoy!

And yes, I am totally listening to the full album right now.  And yes, it is totally blowing my mind.

Click here for Philip Goldberg's original article on the Huffington Post.

The Old and the New

Once upon a time, in Germany of all places, there lived the first people to ever make their way into the study of people's minds.  People have been philosophizing about the role of the soul in people's lives since ancient times.  There are brilliant works on the topic dating back to ancient India, Greece, and China.  However, it wasn't until the Europeans got their Western Scientific hands on it that the field of Psychology was born.  Wilhelm Wundt (say that in your best German accent) set up the first Psychology Laboratory and thus began the West's entree into the mystical realm of psyche.

The word "psyche" means "soul."  Thus, "psychology" is simply the "study of the soul."  Western Science loves to examine and study things, so psychology got quite a lot of attention.  However, back in the days of Wundt and Freud, scientists had to adhere to the stringent rules governing scientific inquiry.  Namely, as scientists, they agreed to study only that which was observable to the 5 senses.  This was an agreement that pleased both The Church, and the field of Science.  Science focused on the physical, not the metaphysical, and everyone was happy.  So, instead of studying the soul, they studied behavior, they analyzed people's thoughts, they tried to interpret people's dreams, they observed the innate behaviors of children, they postulated about aggression and sexuality, and on and on.

The culture that existed in the late 19th Century in Freud's Vienna, for example, was Victorian in nature, repressed as the day is long.  Piano legs had to be covered up as they were thought to be too risque.  Naturally, the "issues" that people had back then looked very different from what we have going on in our lives today.   Our culture has swung so incredibly far from Victorian Era principles, it's silly.  We can hardly imagine living by those values and ideals.  Yet, that is the backdrop of "modern" psychology.  And that is what most people associate with therapy.  Oops...

The evolution from Freudian analysis to Jung and Adler, to Skinner's Behavioralism, to Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow's Humanism to Rollo May's inclusion of Existentialism, to Cognitive-Behaviorism, and Interpersonal Neurophysiology,  to Spiritual Psychology, Positive Psychology, Mindfulness-Based approaches and Solution-Focused Therapies  has been essential to our gaining a whole understanding of how to help people heal their insides.  That is a compacted list, and says nothing about other fields of science and technology, nor about art, philosophy, music, politics, and cultural commentary.  As an integrationist, I look to all these sources and try to synthesize a treatment approach tailored to the specifics of each person.  It would be easier to adopt a single view and widely apply it.  However, history and Reason disallow that.  Today, we have the benefit of all that we know, and all that we know we don't know.  The myth that somehow there will be one single idea that will be a cure-all has to be dispelled.  We have to do better, think better, so that we can live better.  That is my mission.