Think Like a Therapist: Six Life-Changing Insights for Leading a Good Life
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We begin to spend our time doing the things that give us more sense of purpose and meaning. We have a new perspective on life that allows us not to take the small stuff too seriously. We value the time with our family and friends in a new way that cherishes them. On one walk I used to take, I would pass one that had the quote from Proverbs: "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth." Whatever else was going on for me, that quote would always be a reminder to put things into perspective. If either Reece or Morgan wants to do a little more relationship work on their own, then refer to them my recent blog post, " The Coronavirus Hurts Romance, Too."
It's easy of think of relationship problems in terms of what your partner is or is not doing and how to change them.Knowing how unconscious patterns inform behavior is a key consideration in understanding the overall context of human behavior and interaction, but it isn’t the only way to think like a therapist. Since surface behavior and deeper patterns of behavior are interconnected, when we effect a change on one level we also effect a change on the other level. A good therapeutic tip is to forgo either/or thinking and take into consideration that both the obvious and the complicated, the situation and the pattern, are all interconnected aspects of human interaction. Jenny, for example, is a 56 year old woman who was stunned when she realized that she spent her entire life trying to take care of men who could not take care of themselves. Her insight was that she was filling a void left by an absentee father who was never there to take care of her. Aha! moments like these are always followed by, “that was so obvious, I can’t believe I didn’t see it sooner.” Her friends, on the other hand, wondered what took her so long. We tend to skip over obvious insights for deeper explanations, unconscious motivations, and more complicated solutions. Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt Therapy, called it the psychology of the obvious, noting there is an obvious interrelationship between the surface structure and the deep structure of human behavior and that by skipping over these obvious relationships we relegate ourselves to either/or thinking. Jenny can change her relationship to men by learning how to let them take care of themselves or by getting in touch with the deeper emotional void she is trying to fill by chronically taking care of them herself. Whichever level she chooses to focus on will effect a change in the other level since they are both interconnected.
Great. Now what you want to do is facilitate a loving conversation about these fears. If you do a good job with this, their desire discrepancy will become easier to manage. Sex won't have to be the heated battleground with which deeper fears are enacted. It’s not that difficult to think like a therapist. A lot of it is just common sense. It’s not about knowing who is right or wrong, it’s about applying critical thinking to situations, having a good understanding of contextual information, knowing the role of empathy, staying current and relatable and being naturally curious. The art of doing psychotherapy, on the other hand, requires a lot of skill but thinking like a therapist can make a big difference right now in how you manage your problems.But no one welcomes adversity even if it brings some greater wisdom about how to lead life. It is a painful exchange to have to make and often comes too late in life to make the most of.