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Archive for July, 2009

The Observing Ego

One of the most important skills  you can learn in therapy is how to develop an observing ego. Your observing ego has the ability to watch yourself, to observe your unfolding process, and in this way to know yourself on many levels.

The observing ego can be used in many ways:  (1) It can be used ‘after the fact’   –  like when you have remembered something upseting, perhaps in therapy or perhaps not,  and gone through your immediate feelings. Then it is most helpful to look back at what you thought and felt and understand what that all means about you.   (2) Your observing ego  can be used “in vivo.”  This is when your ability to see your self comes into action while  you are in the middle of real life and you need to understand what’s bothering you, what’s propelling you to act a certain way, etc. (3)  A more difficult use of the observing ego,  but a skill very much worth developing, is using it in relationships with other people. I call this “Minding The Store” and it has to do with observing what is going on between you and the other person.   (4)  Then there is the whole skill involved with having the ability to quite literally tune into your inner child, and see or hear what the child in you is thinking, feeling, needing, wanting, pursuing,etc. There is a blog called “An Ongoing Relationship with your Inner Child that teaches how to do  this , step by step. This lovely skill has many uses, including a method you can employ on a daily basis that amounts to developing a positive relationship with yourself and simultaneously healing the child in you from a difficult childhood or trauma.  Once mastered, this skill allows you an instant glimpse into your own psyche and your child within’s experience of whatever is going on in your present unfolding life.

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This is the third bog in a series ” How Therapy Helps”

Why do so many of us hold back from making changes in ourselves that we supposedly want?  Usually it is fear, and that fear can  be strong enough to keep us from even setting the “desired” change as a goal.  Can’t progress in therapy if we are afraid to make our goal a reality, right?

Why does this happen?  Let’s take some examples to make this understandable: Perhaps you grew up in a family were your intrinsic worth wasn’t reinforced enough, and you become an overachiever to prove you are worth something. Yet, working so many hours is wearing you out, and your present family, your  spouse and kids, complain that you are always at work and don’t have time for them. You’d like to not feel pressured to work so much, and you agree to go to therapy so that you can change this and spend more time with the people you love. So – what’s to be nervous about here?

This person might very well hold back while  questioning  themselves in this way: Who will think highly of me  if  I  don’t keep earning those raises, awards, etc. I don’t know if I can feel  good about myself if I don’t keep over-achieving; I’ve kept that old feeling of being wrong and bad at bay by being a super-achiever.   Won’t other people see me differently too? Why would they respect me anymore?

It’s hard to believe that therapy will change the way you see yourself, and that then you will no longer assume that others will look down at you if they are not looking up.  It seems like a terrible risk.

Or take the woman who is so giving of herself to people around her. She’s the one who decided to take care of her siblings so her mother could rest and her mother praised  her for it.  Now it seems that everyone says good  things about her for being so giving.  Her children think she is a great Mom, her husband is always appreciating what she does, her neighbors think the world of her. How do you give that up, especially when that is who you see yourself to be?  Of course there is this problem of feeling used, of never having time for yourself, and not even knowing what is important or pleasing to yourself.  The kids are soon off to college and then what will you do with your time then?  Volunteer?  What about pursuing something that will be truly fulfilling?  But maybe that is being selfish, and who would say good things about you then? Besides, you have no idea what you would like to pursue….what if there isn’t anything?  Very scary prospects, yes?

It is true that therapy takes courage –  a  different kind of courage  Therapy takes courage to look within ourselves,  face our inner dragons, and let ourselves change.  The good news is that change comes slowly enough for you to control yourself.  A competent therapist would never expect you to behave differently in the world until you are fully ready to do so.  It is the therapist’s job to help you track down the blocks to moving forward, and show you how to move through them and get on with becoming the person you truly are.

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