By Dr Aakash Dharamraj
Psychotherapy helps one face conflicts the ego creates, and move on to new, meaningful ways of living. There’s nothing to fear if you feel a nervous breakdown coming on. Nervous breakdown may be a blessing
In essence, psychotherapy is the ‘talking cure’. It is a process of finding personal solutions by giving voice to your deepest feelings in the presence of a trained practitioner, in a safe, non-judgmental and caring environment. Psychotherapy seeks to allow buried fear, rage, sorrow, or any other feelings to surface in a guided encounter with one’s own self. One can then let go of destructive behavior patterns and learn the skills required to live in new, authentic, meaningful and joyful ways.
‘Psychological’ problems emerge from difficulty in grappling with the conflict between inner and outer reality. The solution lies in healing the inner landscape, rather than changing the external one.
Think back to your childhood. For some, it may be a luminous, magical space of pure delight. For others, it may have been a time of humiliation, wounds, terrors, abandonment, rejection and punishment. For most, childhood would be a mix of these two extremes.
Around these early experiences, and the expectations of our parents and conventions of our culture, we construct a sense of self, often referred to as the ‘ego’. This ego is invariably erected around childhood wounds as a kind of protective shield. It may also be a response to our perception of the conventions of our world, and the stated or secret expectations of our parents.
So, the ego is essentially a false, hybrid, rickety, jittery structure, created by ourselves as a survival strategy in childhood, often before we are six years old.
On this shaky foundation, which is replete with cracks and fissures, rests our life. This fragile blueprint contains within it all that we have learned about the world, our place in it, and our mechanisms of survival. This is also what determines how we will deal with the circumstances of our life, and the paths we will choose to travel.
Unfortunately, most of us live out the rest of our lives as victims of this creation of our own panicky reactions to the pressures we face. Our lives may be unsatisfactory as a result, but in our ignorance of any alternative, we keep struggling to prop it up.
The tragedy of ‘society’ is that it seems to be designed to keep us trapped exactly at that pitch of panic and desperation at which we will go on struggling to fulfill the demands of our self-created egos.
Psychologists now believe that nervous breakdowns, schizophrenia, paranoia, drug or alcohol addiction, desperate love affairs, panic attacks, rage, depression, asthma, nausea, chronic illness, cancer—are all symptoms of a life spent in conflict with the ego formed in early childhood. Psychotherapy, therefore, requires a healing of the wounded inner child, and gently leading it into a free space.
When I was seventeen, a teacher gifted me a book, Knots, by noted psychologist R.D. Laing, and said: ”The best thing that can happen to you is to have your (nervous) breakdown when you are young! Slip it in before you are 21, and keep it until you are forced to search for another reality. Don’t wait, like me, for a mid-life crisis… and arthritis!”
I did not understand what she meant, and by and large ignored her words. Until 15 years later, when the painful contrast between my inner self and external reality drove me to take a good look at my life and find ways to transcend the obstacles that I had unknowingly placed in my own path.
Psychotherapy is a process that helps you look honestly and clearly at your own self. It initiates a search for solutions and helps you take responsibility for your life, actions, feelings, health and happiness. Through psychotherapy, you can get in touch with your deepest feelings and purge from your system the vitriolic effects of repressing them. You can, in this way, reclaim your freedom and your true identity and identify and change harmful and destructive behavior patterns. In short, psychotherapy equips you with tools for change.
In its earliest days, psychotherapy was a process of analysis, a ‘couch’ or ‘armchair’ process. In the past 20 years, many practitioners have introduced other healing modalities, spiritual practices, meditation, dance, music, bodywork, massage, exercise, drama, art and writing to support the inner work of psychotherapy, making the journey an exciting and rewarding experience.
Are you ready to have your breakdown now?
Maybe you would be interested in an entry from my journal: ”My life flashes before me, again and again, but I turn away, choosing not to see. All around me are reflections of my own bewilderment. I simply go on walking blindly, in this endless maze, trapped in lonely games, choosing not to see. How well I’ve learned to avoid myself. Isn’t it time I looked? Perhaps it is time, to seek a rendezvous with myself.’
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