The primary focus in my approach to psychoanalytic work is enabling change; while I believe helping you to develop insight, giving support and demonstrating compassion for your individual experience can each be valuable in the the analytic process, I view them as secondary and collateral to the goal of helping you achieving deep and lasting psychic change.
An attitude of kindness, compassion and honesty is essential to my work; however, I think that our work that is most effective in helping us achieve fundamental change involves an inquiry into what we don’t know about ourselves, or what we don’t know we know- the unconscious. Many contemporary modalities of talk therapy focus on figuratively (or sometimes even literally) holding your hand, comforting you in the short-term, and seem to be preoccupied with telling you what they think you need to hear for you to temporarily feel better. There is an emphasis on a ‘corrective emotional experience’ in which the therapist tries to recognize and correct your childhood problems by deliberately behaving in contrast to your family members, thus allegedly fostering a new, more healthy kind of relationship. Although I believe that there can be value in establishing this kind of supportive relationship, ultimately, I don’t think that this kind of interaction in a relatively short amount of time will have a profound effect on your psychic economy and the accumulation of decades of experiences that have affected you. You will most likely settle back into the strange comfort of your self-defeating patterns, your periods of anxiety and depression; your symptoms will remain intact, because they are familiar and serve to keep you safe where you are.
I wish for something different for you: to help you bring about a fundamental shift to the way you think and feel- by articulating things that have a life-changing effect, by speaking things that have never been spoken- that resonate at your core and profoundly change how your mind works. My analytic work, in contrast to other types of talk therapy, does not focus on achieving a temporary soothing of distress, or momentary lessening of anxiety. Actually, in my experience, the process usually initially involves a heightening of anxiety as we begin to get closer what is troubling you. Yes, unfortunately, that seems to be the case: the anxiety sometimes gets worse before it gets better. Why? Because anxiety is essentially a signal indicating that we are getting to the unconscious conflicts at the roots of the problems. Troubling thoughts and memories from our past are pushed away from our consciousness and made unconscious by forgetting- repression. When we repress memories the links between the thought and the feelings connected to them become broken. The result is that while we forget the thoughts, their attendant feelings remain- and operate inside of us by finding ways to express themselves. These suppressed and disconnected feelings create anxiety and express themselves in various forms: physical illnesses, angry or depressed states, or self-destructive patterns, to mention a few. So, the anxiety results from our minds seeking a way to protect ourselves from the effects of painful experiences, and our unconscious conflicts around the repressed material expressing themselves in symptoms. When what we think and say gets close to the repressed memories and our internal conflicts, the anxiety often heightens to protect us from the painful thoughts- and to keep our symptoms in place- even though they are causing us problems, causing suffering and getting in the way of us reaching what we want in life. It helps to talk about things we are anxious about because the it loosens the knots in our unconscious minds that cause the symptoms.
Psychoanalysis can help us evaporate the anxiety and relieve us from these symptoms and self-destructive patterns that get in the way of our zest for life and our ability to achieve our goals. By bringing our thoughts and feelings to speech and by working through our memories, our fantasies, our dreams and our fears we can untangle our symptoms, mend the tears and re-weave the fabric of our conscious and unconscious minds. Sometimes in retrospect, we don’t know exactly what we talked about that affected the change, but I have seen analysands undergo profound personal changes within a few months of entering psychoanalysis. Not only do my analysands’ initial complaints seem to subside; there are usually additional accompanying benefits such as improved physical health, an increase in energy, fewer troubling inhibitions, more rewarding love lives, and career advancements. While we usually don’t pursue these benefits as concrete goals, they seem to happen as by-products of the clearing of anxieties and the subtle shifts in the unconscious mind that occur during the process. And even though we don’t know exactly how these transformations occurred, they usually feel good, when we have achieved change through the process.