Monday, 25 June 2007

I hate ants

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.


stuart said...

look in any newspaper and you will see great big ANT's all over the place. Catastrophies, disasters, and misfortune on a grand scale, every day.

Trivial things are made out to be of huge importance, personal tragedies turned into national crises' and almost anything positive is washed away in the deluge of misery.

Is it any wonder that the individual can become overun with ANT's when we have these bastards spawning all over the place.

Can I book a global course of CBT please?

jamon said...

How true Stu.

You should have a blog.

lynn's daughter said...

Here, here! (big round of applause) I see cliens part time in a counseling session, and quite frankly, if I see a client for too long, I start to wonder if a) I'm not doing my job, 2) s/he's becoming too dependent on me, or c) both.
By the way, you've been tagged.

stuart said...

"you should have a blog"

no thanks, i only have these rantings when something you've written about rattles my cage, so i'll just borrow your comments page from time to time, if that's alright with you :-)

jamon said...

Anytime bud ;)

grooveadam said...

Psychoanalysis is for intellectuals by intellectuals and should not be used to treat illness in the general population. I see a psychoanalytically trained therapist to boost my level of self-awareness and it seems to be working. Obviously if I were currently depressed I would focus on the automatic thoughts.

What exactly is your career? I know you work in the mental health field. Are you a psychologist? I am just curious.

jamon said...

Psychoanalysis should be used playfully and metaphorically to do just what you describe Adam. It's useful to mull over interesting & alternative viewpoints.

As to my background - I'm a mental health nurse by profession, though I've trained in psychoanalysis, CBT and Solution Focussed Therapy.

My work these days however, has been subsumed into management - for some reason I decided to get my MBA.

As such I'm indirectly responsible for the care of way too many people with 'severe & enduring' mental health problems. I have a job title far too long for a comment post..

So, I find that my work of late is frequently abstracted to the point of absurdity ;)

jamon said...

Hmn, I hope the above comment didn't come across as arrogant. I quoted way too many TLA's and trinkets.

I'm not as clever as I just made myself out to be.

Anonymous said...

Ooooo! You might find this journal interesting then. I chose one entry, but most of his are darkly funny in a way you might appreciate ;)

jamon said...

That made me laugh - thanks.

Grabbed his feed