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The Goal Of Therapy

Question:

After much self work and therapy it is apparent that I suffered some type of traumatic abuse while a young child. My therapist and I have tried regression hypnosis and I just won’t reveal those memories. All I do is cry. That part of me is just a black hole. I function reasonably well as a wife, mother, and employee but it takes a tremendous amount of energy to manage my deep seated rage. My therapist seems to think my inability to remember is related to my firm belief that safety is an illusion and I can never truly be safe. My questions is, should I just trust my defense mechanisms and stop trying to dig out these memories? I’ve been functioning with my anger and depression for almost 40 years. Should I just settle for this level of normalcy and be grateful that I’ve made it this far?

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  • Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
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Answer:

There are many different ideas about how therapy is supposed to work. One of them that is quite widespread goes something like this: Long ago you were damaged by the world. A dragon came to live within your heart and head and its poison infected the rest of your life. In order to help you recapture your vitality and innocence again it will be necessary to dive down into the muck of your heart and head, do battle with the dragon, and conquer it. Only then will you be healed. This is a vision of therapy as enacted myth – you get to be the hero or heroine who does the battles and is rewarded at the end. This is a beautiful vision I think. Only problem with it is that it is not the only good vision of therapy out there. Sometimes it is the wrong vision for the problem at hand. I think that might be the case here.

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p>It is just not always helpful to go exploring in the depths of the psyche. A good and proper alternative goal is to help you adapt and cope with your moods, thoughts and relationships with others. There is a need to help you to deal with your rage. An outward focus (rather than an inward one) might be more helpful. Work with your therapist to manage your depression and anger in the present (or find another therapist who will work with you on these issues) and don’t feel you need to remember everything. Consider going forward into your present life rather than backwards into your past.

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