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Avery Post

On the Horns of a Dilemma - Part 4

Therapeutic Influences

I have always wanted to write about how I have integrated the training, teachers and my lived experience of being engaged in therapy with people. It is a multi-colour and multi-level web of mutual influences. I will do this from time to time, based on relevance to the topic of discussion. The following are the influences I noticed as I wrote about dilemmas.

In the beginning of therapy, there was Freud. He did the early exploration of the effect of past history on current emotional states. Some of his psycho-analytical followers, Karen Horney and Alice Walker (Drama of the Gifted Child) expanded the exploration of the internal conflicts created by dilemmas. Prior to the creation of therapy, there was the Buddha, he said there is suffering, and there are ways to let go of suffering. This is a good thing if we expect therapy to work.

Aristotle had influence too – “an unexamined life is not worth living”. A major task of therapy is examining our lives in order to live better. Of wide influence is Beck and Burns, the progenitors of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – there is a connection between thoughts, feelings and actions that is useful to explore when dealing with dilemmas. Important news to note: they used to believe that thoughts came before feelings; new research shows that emotions often come first.

However, talking about feelings, thoughts and actions is rarely enough to get unstuck.

For me there are two main influences to expand the opportunities. The first that attracted me in the 1970’s was meditation. Do you remember Zen Mind Beginner Mind? Then in the 80’s I read a little pivotal book called “Focusing” by Eugene Gendlin. He is a philosopher who observed in the first 10 minutes of therapy that clients who were able to access their inner, felt experience were most likely to be the ones to make lasting changes. Both mindfulness and focusing connect thoughts and feelings to the felt sense in the body. This is the main focus of my work with people now.

However, experience and knowledge aren’t always enough to get us unstuck – we need imagination, practice and solution creation strategies as well as personal courage, honesty and compassion. These are fundamental aspects of effective therapy, to be explored in another blog.

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