Making progress while the unconscious rumbles
I’d like to make progress every session. In my own therapy and with each of my clients.
But what does progress mean?
When I feel the drive for progress it’s a complicated thing.
I want something to come of our conversation. An insight, expression of feeling, an understanding between us, a new idea, an action plan.
And these things happen.
I do have to watch this impulse, though. It’s common for clients to want progress. And it’s common for me (perhaps for other therapists too) to want to meet my client’s needs in this way.
What us therapists need to always be holding is the underground progress.
What do I mean by underground progress?
I mean that all of the pieces that don’t fit into a coherent whole.
I mean the unconscious.
By definition, we don’t know it in its whole. We see little things — in the way we relate to each other, in the language we use, in our dreams, in the way we move our bodies.
There is a world of feelings and beliefs stored in us to which we do not have access.
And much of the reason people come to therapy is the impact these unconscious feelings are having on their life.
And the question many people in therapy have to face is — do I want to get through this rough period with the minimal change in my life possible? Or do I really want to address myself and my relationship with life?
This might be the fundamental question for a period of time in many therapies. This might be the question below the surface.
I certainly ask it over and over again of myself.
So we might have pieces such as:
– balancing personal and professional commitments
– the process of becoming or creating something new
– our love relationship
– our true self
– a survey of our hopes and dreams
Each of these is an expression of ourselves and of what we don’t understand about ourselves.
A partial expression of the unconscious.
We try to understand through all of these different conversations.
Each conversation has a feeling tenor. One person’s way of telling a story is unlike another’s. The feeling is not in words but is conveyed.
What is it like to listen to you?
That’s a question I’m always asking. With an eye to hearing more than you are saying. To hearing what is buried in your language and body and heart that you don’t yet have words for.
The therapist’s job is, partly, to say what it is like to listen in a way that is helpful. In a way that sparks new understandings.
And all of us would benefit from acknowledging that there are the pieces and there is what is below. For each of us and collectively.
What does this situation feel like?
What attitude is being conveyed in how this message is delivered?
What response is this message or experience evoking?
The deeper questions.
Not easily answered. Not ever easily answered.
But there. Existing. Rumbling.
Flowing below consciousness taking us who knows where.
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