Therapy, motivation, and change

I saw an article referencing studies finding that therapy may have a desired effect for only about half of the clients.

The article frames this as a surprisingly low number, although I tend to be surprised it’s that high.

The number will obviously depend on how it is measured, and it also depends on what people wish to work on and what methods they use.

For instance, there are effective methods for phobias, while depression and trauma may be more difficult and take a longer time.

Also, over time, many psychological issues dissolve or lift on their own anyway.

What I have seen is that motivation is key. If we are highly motivated to change, we’ll find a way. A good match with methods and therapists is obviously important, but if the motivation is there we often find a way no matter what. And if we lack motivation, even the best methods, the best therapists, and the best match is not enough for change and transformation.

I have also found that for more general and deeper shifts in how we relate to life, certain daily practices are often more effective than most forms of therapy. For instance using heart-centered practices like tonglen and ho’oponopono, or all-inclusive gratitude practices. A sincere daily practice obviously requires motivation.

So where does the motivation come from? What creates a strong motivation?

The main answer, which is not so satisfying in itself, is that it comes when we are ripe and ready.

How can we become ripe? Often, it’s through life experiences over time and through being sincere and honest with ourselves.

And we can invite some of that ripeness and readiness by investigation.

For instance…

What am I afraid would happen if this changed or I was transformed?

What I am afraid could happen if I explore it?

What am I afraid would happen if I found healing for it?

What’s the effect of living as I do? What are the specifics? How does it show up in the different areas of my life? How does it impact my relationship with others? How do I act and live my life with this issue?

How would it be if it wasn’t here? How may my life be?

As with so much, taking an honest and detailed inventory of what’s happening is often a prerequisite for real change.

When we viscerally get that the pain and discomfort of staying the same is greater than the pain and discomfort of change, we tend to be ready and ripe for change.

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Why is / was there a stigma against psychotherapy?

Nowadays, it’s more accepted and even encouraged to see a therapist, especially in the US. But there is still some left of the old stigma against therapy.

Where does that stigma or skepticism come from?

Some early therapists – in the 1800s and early 1900s – had a more cynical view on humans. This colored people’s perception of therapy in general, and it’s something many of us instinctually want to avoid.

We may have a cynical view on humans and reality. We may think that uncovering and getting close to reality will only confirm that we and/or reality is bad. We don’t trust human nature and reality.

We know we may not get a good or compatible therapist, and a bad therapist is worse than nothing. It can make things worse.

We may see it as only dealing with problems and challenges, and not (also) helping us to thrive and function better in daily life with more joy, sense of meaning, and passion.

We may know or suspect that being honest about our feelings, thoughts, and knowing may require us to act on it and make changes in our life, and we may be scared of making those changes.

All of these reasons are valid and understandable. I know each of these from myself. I instinctually recoil from some of the worldviews and views of humans found in early psychology. I used to have a lack of trust in that uncovering and getting close to reality would be good. I have experience with bad and incompatible therapists and have learned to be more discerning. Some therapists do deal mostly with problems and not helping people thrive. And I have been scared of acting on my own knowing, and have had a counselor who brought me face-to-face with it in an unavoidable way (for which I am grateful).

Why has it changed? Perhaps largely because therapy has changed. There is a more life-affirming view on humans and reality in most contemporary psychology and therapy.

Note: I chose to use imprecise words like good and bad here since this is about perception and often very innocent and childlike perceptions and reactions.

Analyzing vs resolving our issues

It’s a common stereotype that traditional Freudian analysis lines the pockets of the analyst while offering insights to the client and no real resolution. I suspect there is a lot of truth to this, with the caveat that I don’t have personal experience with Freudian analysis.

Analysis and insight at a story level is just the first step in resolving our issues. It gives us an idea of what to work on. For any real and more thorough resolution, we have to go further and typically use other approaches.

What are these other approaches? It can be a range of different things and depends on the person, the issue, and what’s available.

Here are some examples:

Act in spite of our fears. Act as we imagine we would act without the issue. Try it out. Make small steps. (I am sure this one often is part of psychoanalysis sessions.)

Engage in dialog with the different parts of us, and the different parts of the issue. Take the role of the different parts of our mind. (Voice Dialog, Big Mind process, Internal Family Systems).

Use heart-centered approaches like ho’oponopono or Tonglen. This can be deeply transformative and helps us transform our relationship to the issue, the person or situation the issue seems to be about, ourselves, others, and the world, and it also transforms the issue itself.

Release tension and trauma out of the body through, for instance, therapeutic tremoring (TRE). Over time, this can take some or most of the charge out of the issue.

Go further in exploring how the mind creates its own experience of the issue. See how the mind associates sensations with thoughts to give the thoughts a charge and create the issue. See the associations the mind has around it, holding it in place. Find underlying beliefs and identifications, also holding it in place. This can be done with the Living Inquiries.

Identify and examine stressful and painful stories and beliefs holding the issue in place, for instance through The Work.

Use energy healing to bring awareness into the issue and releasing it from all the different parts of our being. (Energy bodies, pathways, chakras, energetic blueprints, physical organs, etc.) Vortex Healing is by far the most powerful and effective approach I have found for this. (In thirty years of exploring a range of approaches.)

These are just some of the approaches I have experience with and have found helpful. What’s common for all of them is that they go beyond just taking and having some understandings, and that’s essential for any real resolution. Whether that resolution is in our relationship to the issue (or what it appears to be about), or a resolution of the issue itself.

And for any of them to be effective, we need to do it with sincerity, receptivity, some doggedness, and with guidance. After a while, we may rely more or mostly on our own guidance, but it’s always good to have the perspective of someone else, especially when it comes to our more ingrained issues.

I should mention that I have a great deal of appreciation and respect for Freud. The essence is sounds and valuable (that much of what’s happening in our mind is outside of conscious awareness, projections, defense mechanisms, etc). And yet, he was a pioneer and a child of his own time and culture, so much of the specifics are perhaps less helpful.

A friend of mine recently told me of a relative who is suicidal (and a psychiatrist) and goes to Freudian psychoanalysis three times a week without it appearing to do much good, or at least not enough good. That was the seed for this article.

Healing & awakening = aligning with reality 

Healing and awakening is all about aligning with reality – at all levels of our being.

That’s a tall order. And it’s already what’s here.

In brief:

We are a local part and expression of life. We are already reality so from this perspective, no alignment needs to happen. We can’t align with what we already are.

And yet, as human beings, we are typically out of alignment in many ways. There is room for alignment and this alignment is an ongoing process of exploration and inquiry, healing and maturing as human beings, and embodying our discoveries and realizations.

How did we get out of alignment? We got out of alignment by holding our thoughts as solid, real, and true. We aligned with our thoughts more than being receptive to life as it is. We came to identify and experiencing ourselves as a being separate from the rest of existence. (Consiousness identified in that way, and took itself to be a being within the content of itself.) And this process built on itself so we came to create wounds, trauma, dynamics leading to some physical illnesses, relationship problems, and a culture and society out of tune with the larger living world.

Nothing is wrong. It’s all life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself. And yet, it is uncomfortable so at some point, there is a motivation to coming back into alignment with life so we can find a sense of home, being in tune with reality, and being more at ease.

How do we get back into alignment? We do so by noticing what we are. That we already are (this local expression of) life and a whole that always is whole. We do so by healing and maturing as human beings. We do so by an ongoing process of clarifying and embodying.

That’s the short version.

And in more detail:

Already reality. We are, in a sense, already 100% aligned with reality. We are life, this local part of the Universe, all of us is already Spirit. We cannot help being 100% reality. We are more than aligned with reality, we are reality. We are this local thinking, feeling, experiencing part of reality. As what we are, we are already reality.

Room for realignment. And it’s a tall order. It’s an ongoing process. We’ll need to face a great deal that may be uncomfortable to us, mainly because we have habitually pushed it away and seen as scary. As who we are, this human being, there is a lot of room for realignment.

Out of alignment. How did we get out of alignment?

One answer is that we, as human beings, tend to believe our thoughts. We hold some of our thoughts as real and true representations of reality and perceive and live as if that’s the case. That inherently creates a sense of separation and of being a separate being, and temporarily veils what we already are. (Life experiencing itself through this local body and these local thoughts, feelings, and experiences.) This – combined with meeting difficult life situations – is also what creates contractions, wounds, and trauma, and the accumulated effects of different types of contractions.

Another answer is Lila, the play of the divine. It seems that Existence has an inherent drive to experience itself in always new ways. The universe is life expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways. And one aspect of that is creating beings and energetic/consciousness veils that create a temporary and local experience of separation. Nothing went wrong. There are no lessons to be learned, no redemption to be earned. It’s just the temporary play of the divine.

Into alignment. So how do we get back into alignment?

We get back into alignment by noticing that we already are life and whole as we are. We already are a wholeness that’s always whole. We can understand that in different ways, and the easiest may be to notice that all happens within and as awakeness or consciousness. And that’s always whole and undivided.

We also get back into alignment through healing and maturing as human beings. And by consciously living from whatever realizations we have about life, what we are, and who we are (aka embodiment).

Both of these are ongoing explorations. As what we are, we keep noticing and clarifying. As who we are, we keep healing, maturing, and embodying. And it’s not at all a linear path.

A few additional notes:

Christianity. I thought I would say a few words about Christianity. In some cultures, the idea of aligning with reality for healing and awakening is natural and comes in from birth. I assume Buddhist cultures, Taoist cultures, and many native cultures are this way.

In other cultures, and specifically Christian and perhaps Abrahamic or theistic cultures in general, it’s different. Here, nature, life, and reality is viewed with some ambivalence and perhaps suspicion.

In Christinanity, there is the idea of original sin which makes us question our own nature, we are suspicious of our natural drives (sex, eating, resting etc.). We may also be trained to be suspicious of nature and life since it can lead us into temptation. In a Christian culture, or one that was Christian for a long time, it can seem odd or questionable to want to align with reality. If we and nature is more or less inherently sinful, why would we align with it?

Maybe it’s better to push it away as much as we can? Or maybe it’s better to transcend? We may try transcending, and find it works for a while, but reality is whole so we are inevitably brought back here and now with what’s already here.

In this case, it’s good to take small steps. Try it out and see what happens. We can explore this through inquiry where we question stressful thougths and find what’s more true for us. We can also explore it through body-centered practices such as Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises where we use the natural and inherent mechanisms of the body to find healing. Through these explorations, we may see that aligning with nature and reality is healing and can give us a sense of coming home.  We gradually build trust.

Healing, awakening, & sustainability. As shines through what I wrote above, healing, awakening and sustainability are all about aligning with reality. That’s why the three – for me – are inseperable. The seeds of dis-ease, an unawakened experience, and a society out of tune with the larger living world, are all the same. And the basic remedy is the same as well – align with life and reality.

For healing, we can align through inquiry, TRE, Breema, yoga, meditation and more. For awakening, we can align through inquiry, meditation, prayer, and more (whatever helps us ripen). For sustainability, we can align with life through philosophical and economic frameworks that takes ecological realities into account (which none of the current mainstream ones do), and a generally worldview that does the same.

Psychotherapy. I intentionally left out psychotherapy from my (brief) list of ways we can find healing. That’s because psychotherapy can be healing or not depending on who’s doing it (the therapist) and the approach they are using. If the therapist’s view is inherently skeptical about life and reality, then any healing won’t go very deep. It may even be traumatizing. If their view and life is more deeply aligned with life and reality, and they have a deep trust in life, then the healing can go quite deep. Process Work is an excellent example of an approach that’s inherently trusting of and aligned with life.

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