DK: My first computer came with an abundance of software programs installed. I knew virtually nothing about how to make use of it. I write great deal, so I have become expert in using the word processor program. Then I had to figure out how to use e-mail in order to correspond with some friends. When I need to learn something new, I begin with hesitancy, anticipating the inevitable series of frustrations. Those mistakes lead to learning, and in the end, I know more of my computer. In the same way, experience leads us to more knowledge of the Self with the capital “S.”
Experience produces demands and frustrations and ultimately learning (by the way, experience also produces injury that may block learning). As time goes on, experience accumulates, and pushes learning about the Self. Psychotherapy can be the experience that leads to learning about Self, but more often, psychotherapy is a catalyst for change. Or therapy becomes a template for how to get something out of our own experiences with a meaningful other person.
It may be helpful to know that this way of thinking is stimulated by our experiences in working with families and patients with more serious/major mental/emotional disorders and entrenched psychosomatic disorders. The way these ideas translate into more serious disruptions is that instead of viewing them as genetically- or nerochemically- based struggles, we think of them, especially schizophrenia as a desperate immersion in” I”. Relational support is needed to make it back to the surface. However, in the immersion, profound injury may occur that heal very slowly.
What does that mean about psychotherapy with major emotional /mental disorders? For me, it means the therapist pressures the family together and neutralizes the schizophrenic’s desperate rampage to bring about change. And the family’s attempt to be therapeutic to its own member is interrupted. We work at getting all family members to acknowledge their own pain and turn them toward the labyrinth of themselves. The process, when it works, moves the schizophrenic person out of the pivotal position in the family.
It is difficult to attend to these processes. Deeper symbiotic/symbolic connection with patients is involved. The process pressures the core Self of all who are involved. (The process almost routinely provokes disturbing symptoms in the therapist.) The Self of the therapist can become temporarily disoriented. The experience challenges identity and competence and leads to questioning the very meaning of the Self. And, as I noted above, it is much more likely to succeed in the presence of the family.
I have been paying attention to “I” in the core of each of us; the searching is a clumsy, but crucial, counterbalance to mass culture. Psychotherapy emerges as a means to restore the “I”, but psychotherapy is taken over by the culture, neutralized. Remembering “I”, looking for “I” is to enter a labyrinth of darkness, deception, and meaninglessness. But it is exactly in this descent into meaninglessness, without panic, but with the impeccable eyes of the searcher, that the meaning of life and relationships is deepened. It is humbling to write in this way. I hope I said something interesting, if not helpful, to you.