Psychotherapy: Purpose, Process and Practice - Process Introduction
THE PROCESS OF PSYCHOTHERAPY
“Psychotherapy is a process that changes the view of the self.” (P-2.I.1:1) “Its whole function, in the end, is to help the patient deal with one fundamental error: the belief that anger brings him something he really wants, and that by justifying attack he is protecting himself.” (P-2.I.1:3) Yet anger is of the ego. The ego can NEVER bring you anything you really want, nor is that even the purpose of anger. Anger is a crying out for love. Yet it pushes away love as fast as it calls for it – from all but God’s miracles workers. Miracle workers understand that this is a child of God who has lost his way, and love is The Answer.
Psychotherapy aims at healing the patient’s mind by changing his self-concept. It deals only in concepts, not in reality. Even though concepts are at best reflections of reality (as the appearance of love in the world is at best a reflection of God’s love), still our only job is helping the patient to change his concept of himself. The ego self he sees as his god, and he seeks only to serve it better.
At best this new view of the self that the process of psychology will give the patient, is a more beneficent self-concept, but psychotherapy can hardly be expected to establish reality. If it can make way for reality (by removing the blocks to truth), it has achieved its ultimate success. To whatever extent the patient comes to realize that anger and attack have no purpose in reality, to that extent is he truly saved. Once that task is done, reality dawns on the patient’s mind. Reality must be experienced by the patient himself. It is not something that can be taught, as can concepts.
It is the patient’s own anger that gives him a self-concept that needs healing. It is an erroneous view of the self as shameful and unworthy, not reflecting love at all. Yet patients do not enter into the therapeutic relationship with the goal of relinquishing anger and attack. To the contrary, their aim is to maintain their self-concept as it is, and even to try to win the therapist over to their way of thinking. What they DO want from the therapeutic relationship is to release the suffering that anger entails. “Their whole equilibrium rests on the insane belief that this is possible.”
To the sane mind, of course, this is not possible. Causes must have their effects. Anger produces suffering and there is no getting around it. So patients enter into therapy, then, seeking magic! They seek a magical panacea that will cure all suffering without removing the cause of anger and attack. They want the therapist to wave a wand for all suffering to magically disappear. They must understand that lasting change does not occur from the outside in, but from the inside out. You can change outer circumstances all day long, but they will keep appearing, in one form or another, until you change the cause of them. The cause is the patient’s erroneous self-concept. The cause is the patient’s upside-down thoughts. The cause is the patient’s unforgiveness, which results in anger and attack.
Anger and attack, no matter how subtly accomplished, is the mainstay of the personality of many. They project the anger and blame, and the resulting guilt. They will do just about anything but deal with it. Ego says: Make someone else wrong; make me RIGHT. Ultimately they have chosen to appear to be “right,” rather than to be genuinely happy.
With magic, anything can appear to be. But is appearance what the patient really seeks? Is it? “Keeping up appearances” is a very hard road to travel in life. Appearance only, is not acceptable to the Son of God. Reality is. Even adopting a “better illusion” is not the answer. Living the truth is much easier, yes? Hence, we seek psychotherapy to remove the blockages to truth.
Now let us take a look at the therapist’s goal in the therapeutic relationship. We have already seen that the patient wants to keep anger and attack, and relinquish only the suffering it entails, while retaining his self-concept exactly as it is. He seeks only to better serve his current concept of self. The therapist, however, has the goal of helping the patient to change his self-concept, to alleviate the suffering that is the inevitable result of his illusionary self.
Regardless of how sincere the therapist himself may be, he must want to change the patient’s self-concept in some way that he believes is real. The therapist (unless he is highly advanced) does not see walking into his office a perfect Son of God who just happens to carry a faulty self-concept. He sees a faulty human being walk in, one who is riddled with defects. He wants to transform the patient’s defective self-image into a healthy self-image.
The task of therapy is one of reconciling these differences between the goal of the patient and the goal of the therapist. Both must give up their original goals and work together for a holy result, for it is only in holy relationships that salvation can be found. At the beginning, however, it is inevitable that patients and therapists alike will accept unrealistic goals, not completely free of magical overtones. They will be finally given up in the minds of both, as the Holy Spirit’s goal of healing is sought instead.
To begin with, the patient does not usually know what the “problem” is. They have their own ideas of what it is, which usually is just the surface situation. The “real problem” is lying somewhere beneath the surface, perhaps in many layers. These are for the therapist, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to bring into the light.
The patient will often state the “problem” as he sees it, and then state the “solution” as he sees that. The patient’s mind will be so full of his own ideas of “problem” and “solution” that he may not even HEAR what the Holy Spirit would have you say to them. Sometimes, if this is the case, you must ask the patient to come back when he is READY for help. But do not be too quick to judge. This will be the Holy Spirit’s call, not yours, so defer to Him.
Jesus knows the readiness of your brothers for miracles. Helping a brother who is not ready is not a waste of time, as no act of kindness is ever wasted. But Jesus may have someone else for you to help now, someone who IS ready. So be alert to what you are called to do – and are not called to do.
Our thoughts determine the world we see.
We have decided we do not like the way our minds think, because thus far our thoughts have not shown us, or the world, to be perfectly happy.
So we go to therapy to seek relief from suffering and to seek happiness. What happens there?
It is about therapeutic relationships. About what the patient expects when entering the relationship, and what the therapist expects, and how to reconcile those two expectations into joining with the Holy Spirit's goal of healing. About how to change the patient’s self-concept from shame and guilt and unworthiness, to remembering that we are all created by God in Love. This is a remembrance worth bringing into every moment, for patient and for therapist.
To actually change our view of the world, we must change our view of the self.
The patient must be willing to seek a real solution, rather than magic – or at least, if this is all he is capable of at the moment, seek a “better” illusion.
The therapist must be willing to relinquish his ideas of “improvement” as well, in exchange for the Holy Spirit’s idea of healing.
“Perhaps it will be helpful to remember that no one can be angry at a fact. It is always an interpretation that gives rise to negative emotions, regardless of their seeming justification by what appears as facts. Regardless, too, of the intensity of the anger that is aroused. It may be merely slight irritation, perhaps too mild to be even clearly recognized. Or it may also take the form of intense rage accompanied by thoughts of violence, fantasied or apparently acted out. It does not matter. All of these reactions are the same. They obscure the truth, and this can never be a matter of degree. Either truth is apparent or it is not. It cannot be partially recognized. Who is unaware of truth must look upon illusions.”
Note: There are no big or small upsets. A slight irritation is the same as intense rage. A negative emotion perceived as minor, is the same as a negative emotion perceived as major. All of these reactions are the same. What is the same, is the same. There are no gradations. It is either the truth, or is it not. There is no order of difficulty in miracles.