I have been doing couples therapy for as long as I have been a therapist, and over the years have created a way of working which has had a moderate success rate, using principles taught but also intuited by years of training and doing the work. I have seen how deeply people long for love: for connection, to be heard and seen and and accepted as they are. That is what emotional nourishment consist of, and what is almost always lacking in a marriage or relationship which is in trouble. Sometimes it is too late to learn to reconnect: too many hurts, too much distance, too many individual emotional issues which had come in the way. But for couples who can identify the unhappiness or dissatisfaction (which is usually the beginnings of disconnection) in time, couples counselling can be fruitful and lead to an enriched relationship. This video introduces and explains an effective and well researched approach to working with couples, and shows the direction in which I am developing my further skills as a therapist. This approach fits perfectly with how I have been working, and with how I see relationships and love and connection, and the importance there-of in our lives
Most people come into therapy with the wish to “just be happy”. But what does it mean to be happy? And is it even possible to “just be happy”?
On the Self Help shelves in bookstores there is a proliferation of books which guarantee a more successful, better, more fulfilling, but especially happier life. These books reflect our wish for happiness, and our unease with suffering, pain, discomfort, uncertainty.Of course, I am not advocating that we should suffer unnecessarily, nor am I saying that self help books are of no value. But I have to admit: when I see titles making promises that if only a certain number of easy steps are followed, all will be well and you will have found true happiness, my therapist heart sinks. Real suffering requires real inquiry and time spent, with a therapist, finding out what is going on: not a checklist, questionnaire, or twenty positive self affirmations in your mirror every morning.
There are no quick fixes. Of course some issues are more easily resolved, and sometimes reading books and getting information that way can make a huge difference in our understanding and experience of what is going on for us. But usually our unhappiness is there for a reason: whether it is part of a normal response to an abnormal environment or event(such as trauma), and/or whether it rises from within us as a response to our own particular history. Our unhappinesses are usually unique to our particular lives and requires telling about and inquiring into.This is done best in the presence of another who can hear and see and witness and guide and comment and ask questions, and ultimately help us become aware of what is going on and what is causing us to feel unhappy. Therapy can help us explore and try out new emotional, behavioural, mental: in other words psychological, alternatives, which help us to be normally unhappy, in stead of pathologically unhappy. Freud once famously said: ‘The aim of psychoanalysis is to relieve people of their neurotic unhappiness so that they can be normally unhappy”. I smiled when I read that first, even though at first glance it sounds pretty pessimistic.( Neurosis, by the way, is a general term “applied to a variety of mild disorders or conditions that are characterized by anxiety and phobias that don’t involve any altered senses of reality and don’t effect the entire personality”. http://www.alleydog.com/glossary/definition.php?term=Neuroses#ixzz2RGxTrr2 )
But when we are neurotically unhappy, it means that we are unable, because of unhealthy ways of experiencing our emotions and thoughts, to be resilient in the face of what happens to us in life. In therapy we can learn to inquire into those ways of feeling and thinking and behaving which get in the way of being able to experience if not ecstatic happiness, then an ease of being, or a sense of general wellbeing. In therapy we learn new ways to respond to our inner impulses and outer triggers in ways which enable us to have good relationships with others and ourselves, to feel generally good, calm, resourceful and satisfied, and able to take on the task of growing up and becoming more fully who we are.
This general sense of ease and wellbeing is as good as it gets. Being able to cope with what life throws at us in a way which fits our relationships and personalities and circumstances so that we don’t make the sometimes unavoidable suffering worse, is as good as it gets. Living an aware life, a life in touch with what goes on inside, does not guarantee permanent happiness: it does bring though a sense of self responsibility, of autonomy, and being one’s own person. Not happy shiny always, but alive and responsive to the world.
Original post here: http://ronellehartblogspot.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/as-good-as-it-gets/