Psychoanalysis appeals to my artistic sensibilities. With its repressed sexuality and subconscious yearnings we can transform any ordinary life into high art. We can ponder on the metaphorical meaning of behaviour and invent neo-classical narratives to romanticise almost any screwed up, wretched existence. And if you think Freud was odd, then just imagine the fun you can have applying the colourful fruitbattery of Melanie Klein's Projective Identification.
It's a shame that its utter bolloxs. Mind, projective identification does explain the current Middle East policies of the US & UK. An insane theory for insane action I suppose.
Anyway, there's three reasons why Psychoanalytical therapy is often long term;
1) Profit. What better way of achieving consumer 'lock in', than convincing the client he'll need therapy for the rest of his life?
2) Ego. The therapist gets to show off, and the client gets to self-congratulate / flagellate / stimulate...
3) It doesn't work. The client has to keep coming back, as he rarely gets any better by engaging in it. The therapist tells him that this is quite normal, as Psychoanalysis is a long term therapy.
Now don't get me wrong. I firmly believe in the benefit of talking therapies. There's good evidence to show that Rogerian therapy (person centred counselling) and more specifically Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be of benefit to people in mental distress.
A brief course of CBT, coupled with some light physical exercise and Omega-3 fatty acids is as potent a treatment for mild to moderate depression as any anti-depressant pill. What I particularly like about CBT is how it can help teach Mindfulness. The same mindfulness incidentally, that Buddha discovered, long before Freud even noticed he fancied his mother.
CBT can help you to become aware of your own thoughts in real time - you become the observer. You can then monitor yourself for Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) and then deal with them appropriately.
ANTs, like the little bastards in my front garden, get everywhere. I find them all the time in books, in friends, on the internet and in the mirror. This is what they look like;
Overgeneralisation: Coming to a general conclusion based on a single event or one piece of evidence. If something bad happens once, you expect it to happen again and again. Such thoughts often include the words “always” and “never”.
I forgot to finish that project on time. I never do things right.
He didn’t want to go out with me. I’ll always be lonely.
Filtering (Selective Abstraction): Concentrating on the negatives while ignoring the positives. Ignoring important information that contradicts your (negative) view of the situation.
I know he [my boss] said most of my submission was great but he also said there were a number of mistakes that had to be corrected…he must think I’m really hopeless.
All or Nothing Thinking (Dichotomous Reasoning): Thinking in black and white terms (e.g., things are right or wrong, good or bad). A tendency to view things at the extremes with no middle ground.
I made so many mistakes. If I can’t do it perfectly I might as well not bother. I won’t be able to get all of this done, so I may as well not start it.
This job is so bad…there’s nothing good about it at all.
Personalising: Taking responsibility for something that’s not your fault. Thinking that what people say or do is some kind of reaction to you, or is in some way related to you.
John’s in a terrible mood. It must have been something I did.
It’s obvious she doesn’t like me, otherwise she would’ve said hello.
Catastrophising: Overestimating the chances of disaster. Expecting something unbearable or intolerable to happen.
I’m going to make a fool of myself and people will laugh at me.
What if I haven’t turned the iron off and the house burns down.
If I don’t perform well, I’ll get the sack.
Emotional Reasoning: Mistaking feelings for facts. Negative things you feel about yourself are held to be true because they feel true.
I feel like a failure, therefore I am a failure.
I feel ugly, therefore I must be ugly.
I feel hopeless, therefore my situation must be hopeless.
Mind Reading: Making assumptions about other people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours without checking the evidence.
John’s talking to Molly so he must like her more than me.
I could tell he thought I was stupid in the interview.
Fortune Telling Error: Anticipating an outcome and assuming your prediction is an established fact. These negative expectations can be self-fulfilling: predicting what we would do on the basis of past behaviour may prevent the possibility of change.
I’ve always been like this; I’ll never be able to change.
It’s not going to work out so there’s not much point even trying.
This relationship is sure to fail.
Should Statements: Using “should”, “ought”, or “must” statements can set up unrealistic expectations of yourself and others. It involves operating by rigid rules and not allowing for flexibility.
I shouldn't get angry.
People should be nice to me all the time.
Magnification/Minimisation: A tendency to exaggerate the importance of negative information or experiences, while trivialising or reducing the significance of positive ones.
Watch out for the little buggers, they can really screw up your day.