The Point of Psychotherapy (part 2)

This question is instructive: what has changed here - the car or the man? The car is still the same basic machine it was the day the man drove it off the lot. Aside from a flat tire and a bit of wear and tear, the car hasn't changed much. The man's perceptions and feelings about the car, however, have shifted radically.

The problem is that the man viewed the car as a source of happiness and prestige, almost as if "happiness and prestige" inherently existed IN the car itself (like happiness was actually mixed into its metal and rubber). But the car is just a piece of machinery and has no inherent quality of "happiness" or "prestige" within it. Yet somehow (very subtly but very profoundly) the man believed (long before he bought it) that the car possessed these qualities; thus if he could own the car, then these qualities would become his qualities. Of course this unrealistic expectation could not be upheld for very long and, when reality came crashing down, he became dissatisfied which he readily exited through anger and agression; he blamed the car and lashed out at it.

We go through this same process with the people, places and things of our lives. We imbue them with qualities (good and bad) that they do not actually possess. Then we get disappointed, dissatisfied, upset, and we often blame and lash out. Sometimes we just become dissatisfied and move on. We develop a wander lust, a seven year itch, we upgrade to the new model of wife, boyfriend, or job - and many of us believe that with this next upgrade, we will finally find satisfaction and happiness. To become realistic is good and healthy. What use is there in believing in falsehoods and exaggerated misperceptions? We are not children any more.

It is better to see things as they are, this is useful. To see the good and the bad, to experience the disappoints and joys - to stop believing that you can somehow escape disappointment, pain and difficulty is useful. Why is this useful? Because if you are a human being, you will suffer in very predicable ways (see previous blog). You can not escape disappointment, pain, sadness, depression, hurt, guilt, and worry. Why pretend that you can? This only makes the suffering inherent in human life worse. Uncomfortable thoughts and emotions (depression, fear, loss, helplessness, etc) arise when people die, when they are are diagnosed with illnesses, when they are faced with the realities of aging, when they are met with unfortunate circumstances beyond their control, or when they are separated from the people, places and things that they want or desire.

To stop fighting a battle you can not win is intelligent. Better to conserve your resources and create awareness of reality as it is. To become comfortable with the fact that there is no happiness and satisfaction outside of you; to deeply realize that you are the source of much of your own suffering; to see how you actively pour fuel onto the fire; to learn how to work with your mind and your emotions - this creates meaning and this is the point of psychotherapy.

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