We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
A therapy patient of mine recently sat thoughtfully for a few minutes, then exclaimed "Oh my God, I've been acting as if I really had power over all these things, as if I had the power to prevent bad things from happening."
"Yes you have," I said. "That's your good insight for the day."
"I've been doing this all my life. Am I crazy?"
"Not at all," I said. "You just discovered one of your underlying assumptions about things. We call them 'unconscious fantasies' - or we call them that until you become aware of them."
One of the rewards of my work is helping people discern their hitherto unattended-to, unexamined, "unconscious" operating principles. When these are held up to the light, it can be disorienting, humbling, and distressing for many to realize that much of their problematic or ineffective behavior has been determined by following a false map, as it were. To mix metaphors even further, to realize that they were standing on unsolid ground.
My very pleasant businesswoman patient came to the realization that one of her dominant operating principles was to keep everybody in her world, everyone she knew, safe from distress, worry, discomfort, disease, and misfortune. Not only did this principle run her ragged, but it often failed. When it failed, she blamed herself for not having done enough. The unconscious fantasy she uncovered might be called a "fantasy of omnipotence."
Everybody operates, to varying degrees, according to unconscious fantasies about themselves, others, and the world in general. Nobody is 100% in reality. Problems can arise depending on how far the hidden assumptions diverge from reality. Reality is the harshest teacher, and never spares the rod.
What are these things made of? Freud discovered/defined them, although writers and students of human nature have always been interested in the irrational consistencies of personality. Freud said that they are constructed from wishes, fears, hopes, dreams, experiences, temperaments, and especially defenses. I think that is true. During maturation, they become organized like pieces of mental software. Like the beating heart and the digesting bowel, they are part of what and who we are while operating outside our awareness.
Unfortunately, we cannot ask people what their deep operative fantasies are, because they are, by definition, unaware of them. That's where Psychoanalytic skills come in, like soul-surgeons, to try to biopsy and, perhaps, extract the problem software. However, our medical rule is primum non nocere so we try not to let the best become the enemy of the good-enough.
Fortunately, the human mind seems to have a relatively limited repertoire of unconscious fantasies, so we experts are expected to be able to identify them, in time. That's a topic for another post, maybe.
Question about the "talking therapy". How many years of talking do people go thru only to really get nothing from it? 15-20 and they still are screwed up royally. People are simply lying to themselves and think they need a professional to help them. Suicides in the profession? I have known more than a few who have been in talking therapy and have made no progress at all. Feel free to pile on.
Okay, i'll pile this on: That there suicides on either side of the 'talking cure' indicates not that the discipline is erratic but that it draws a self-selected group which on the distressed side has reason to fear its own psychic reality and on the therapeutic side an interest in why.
Furthermore, i'd say, the profession and the clientele do not enter the field so they can populate the dangerous borderlands of the mind; in fact they do not enter the field at all --they find themselves already there, and engage the profession in order to try to learn who what where why & how --so that they can escape it, or so that they can escape being helpless to defend --others as well as themselves from 'all fall down'.
American ''westerns'' put all this on a big screen. Frontier towns in these vision quests are populated by pilgrims at risk; fools have rushed in where angels fear to tread, and everywhere the wicked flee when none pursue. Stepping with trepidation amongst the closed eyes and secret open hearts, will an angel here or there whisper that foolish is how we are, and that none who fear and hate their own hate and fear must truly give up and abide among the wicked.
Catch ''True Grit'' --the Coen's remake --sometime when life is quiet and you can let fall into it.
For several years I've been a student of Buddhism, especially interested in the meeting points between mindfulness meditation and therapy. The goal inpsychology and in Buddhism is liberation, and both systems depend on being able to face reality, seeing not only our flaws, but our strengths as they really are. What a lot of work it can be to develop insight, and it takes some courage, too. How fortunate are those who find a mentor or therapist to help mediate the process of coming to insight.
Dr. Bliss, what you've said is sensible. I imagine the subconscious mind makes a significant contribution to the development of a worldview, and as a worldview is a functional perspective, maladaptation can lead to troubling life issues. Expertise in the functions of the psyche could help a layman identify some of those shadow influences. It's in the schema of things, so to speak.
Anyway, the unexamined life isn't worth living, right?
Finally, apropos of almost nothing, I suspect you can lead a patient to analysis but you can't make them think. To imagine all problems are external to the self is unquestionably a defensive position, but it's the easier choice. It's comforting. Reality is hard.