Why do Psychotherapy?
Throughout our lives we are constantly making the effort to express our subjectivity. To know what we think and feel, what we want and don’t want, to feel free to assert the legitimacy of our point of view, are aspects of our subjectivity that we sometimes struggle with. Old fears of being judged or rejected can make it difficult to express subjectivity. This can lead to an empty, unfulfilling life. Not knowing what we want or being unable to act on our desires leaves us unsatisfied, frustrated, and upset with ourselves. In a word, depressed. This can lead to hopelessness and a diminishing desire to exist.
Early experiences as a dependent child of not being related to respectfully can lead to a crippling fear of asserting needs. This dependency, early in life is total, meaning that the child is incapable of sustaining his/her life without help. Some parents, because of their own early trauma, unconsciously take advantage of this dependency by withholding care to force compliance to parental needs for acknowledgement and power. When care is manipulatively withheld the child feels her well-being threatened. Compliance becomes necessary for some sense of security. This fear and compliance extends into adulthood despite the ability to take care of ourselves. The early fear leaves its mark even with the achievement of some independence.
This is when psychotherapy can make a difference, especially if it is psychodynamically oriented. One of the most successful ways of changing the effects of early experiences of having to comply or conform to parental needs to the exclusion of one’s subjectivity, is to be related to respectfully in a sustained way. The therapy relationship can be one of genuine mutual respect and inter-subjectivity. This means that the therapist remains aware of how he is affecting the patient and takes full responsibility for that. Practically, when a problem arises in the working relationship, the therapist will not automatically blame it on the pathology of the patient, but will honestly admit to her part in it. Working intersubjectively means that it takes two to tangle, so the therapist always has some responsibility when a difficulty arises. Owning this responsibility is healing for both participants. The patient has a different experience of a parental/authority figure and when that is sustained long enough the early experiences fade as the new ones slowly replace them.
Acknowledging the developmental need for recognition, and the need for competence in constructing and maintaining and repairing mutual recognition in relationships, is also at the heart of the means and the goals of relational or psychodynamic psychotherapy.
Adrian Jarreau 5/19/16