The Nature of, and the Key to Therapy –At Least the Way I Do It
–By Jim Nolan, Therapist & Life Coach since 1983
Here’s a point of view held by a lot of Psychologies and wisdom traditions. Most of us are familiar with this stuff. Some do not believe it, and that is OK, as long as they have something that works better for them, whatever that might be. This works for me and my clients…
The thoughts that we hold about an experience or phenomenon, significantly impact or create the emotional response we have to it. Makes sense. By the way, a belief is a thought that we say to ourselves over and over to the point that we can hardly even question whether it is accurate or not anymore. We think it is truth, even though it might be wildly off the mark. Of course, you and I never do stuff like that, but we know people who do…….
The emotional response we have to our thoughts and beliefs largely colors our mood, and, if similar emotions are held over a longer period of time, they will significantly impact our perceived quality of life. If I interpret a lot of my life experiences in a negative way, I will come to believe my life sucks; I will probably feel crappy, and my mood will be depressive and/or anxious. Again, makes sense, right?
Narratives (dynamic and bundled thoughts and beliefs) become the way we understand and interpret our experiences. We often take our internal narratives for “Truth”, when actually they are only one of many possible ways to view the events that comprise them, and often are not even accurately remembered or sensibly bundled. (“I did not get that job—I am such a loser…”) Experiment: Get together with family members and ask them to share their version of some significant event or a series of events from three decades ago, and see if they all line up the same. Let me guess: They don’t. (I cannot even imagine how it is possible I grew up in the same house with my siblings, when I hear them talk about what it was like when we were kids…holy mackerel…)
Narratives also drive moods and perceived quality of life. If I get a story going about what a loser I am, how nothing ever works out for me, and how it is all only going to get ten times worse with Trump as president, then I have a pretty good chance of ending up feeling disempowered, helpless, angry, frustrated, and hopeless. Again, this is not building rocket ships to Uranus. It is pretty straightforward.
Recognizing the above allows us the possibility to stop, and more intentionally examine our thoughts and narratives, challenge them, entertain or create new ones, and transform our perception and narrative, thus our mood, thus our overall experience of life. By the way, that is a pic of my nephew Andrew intentionally examining his thoughts and narratives. Does he look disempowered to you? No, he does not. He did not have a lot of negative thoughts running through his head when that photo was taken.
So, in this way, happiness, desperation, joy, victimization, life satisfaction, anxiety, delight, and depression become more of a choice.
Caveat/Heads Up/Duck if You Tell This to Your Negative Friends
A lot of people don’t like this point of view, because it suggests they hold significant responsibility for their own experience, when it is easier and sometimes more satisfying (in the short run) to blame something or someone else. But that, too, is one of the choices.
Abraham-Hicks, Shakespeare, Albert Ellis, Michael White, Henry Ford, Seth, Albert Bandura, Tony Robbins, Dr. Michael Beckwith, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Glasser, Emma Curtis Hopkins, and countless others have articulated versions of this point of view.
If you tell your negative friends and family members all of that, they may hate your guts. Better to let them figure it out themselves. As a therapist, I am lucky, because I can say “I am not sure how honest or outspoken you really want me to be in here….” At which time clients USUALLY say “NO!! I REALLY want you to just tell me…” So I get permission. They are paying good dough (or their insurance companies are), so by THIS time, they really DO want to know. Your cousin Kevin and your co-worker Melba June don’t really want to hear it.
A LOT of Psychotherapy, Counseling, and for that matter, Life Coaching, (which I do too) amounts to recognizing the truth of the above, cultivating a willingness to take the driver’s seat on the bus that is our own life, and beginning to develop thought patterns and narratives that bring us closer to the life we want to be living.
Again, there will be those who say “It isn’t that simple!” but for a lot of us, it is. We just have to be willing to take responsibility for our own power and for the direction of our lives. Those who choose NOT to believe any of this will have to come up with a different model, I guess. I don’t know how to work any other way, myself. For me, this work has always been about empowerment, and this framework is the most empowering worldview I know. That is why I am sharing it here. If you radically do not agree with any of this, you should lose my card and un-bookmark my web page, because I am probably not the right guy for you…And that is totally OK…If it all makes sense to you, then great….thanks for reading…share this with your friends…