Beware of therapy goals! (1) You’re prey.

(oft-attributed to Carl Jung:)

“The reason modern people can’t see God is that they won’t look low enough”

Beware of therapy goals, unless they are centered about inner work to know your unconscious self. Most are not. Daily reading books like “The language of letting go” seem like they are aimed at knowing yourself, but it’s superficial. These modes prey on our desires for therapy to help us feel better about ourselves. They present ideas to examine about ourselves, but they do not dwell on them because that would contradict the goal of feeling better. They tend to focus on how we have perceived things that have happened to us, and “mistakes” we may have made in our thinking or behaviors. They mix it in with some nuggets of how things *could* be—gentleness to give us hope. Many conclude with uplifting resolutions, often as prayers (which I find *potentially* abominable to my God), whether “The language of letting go” or the AA serenity prayer. Why all this cynicism from me?

First, whip open such a short reading and evaluate it from these perspectives above:
1. I’m a victim. I feel bad.
2. I’ve made mistakes. I feel bad.
3. There are alternatives. Feeling better.
4. I agree with them. I feel better.

Why so cynical? These modes — whether books or therapy sessions — keep us in a limbo of optimism mixed with consciousness of our victimization. That consciousness is only half the truth of victimization.

I am aware that some people are not ready to dive deeply into their inner selves, and that they might need some gentle affirmation, and causes for hope. So, for how long? The best of therapy guidelines advise this gentle initiation as necessary to establish rapport between the therapist and client (or author and reader). Clients can only expose themselves as far as they trust the therapist. Almost universally, clients mistake this trust as therapeutic progress. That capitalizes on this obvious reality:

You’re not in therapy if you have not suffered numerous violations of your trust.

A therapist who won’t violate your trust by being non-gentle is just what you’re looking for to feel better!

That’s therapeutic, but so is talking to your dog, or a few beers and a banana nut muffin.

How much time should we spend growing our consciousness that we are suffering victims? We all are. Every wisdom tradition in human history tells us that. When does a client know it sufficiently to take some next steps? And what are those next steps?

Here are the two solid principles in any therapy, whether it’s Dr. Phil or Jesus Christ:

1. “Own from your bones”

No therapeutic progress can occur, or stick, unless the client comes to realizations as their own ideas. Clients must “know” these things by ways of knowing that far exceed cognition and rationality in the “mind.” This form of knowledge is internal, and comes from our inner places; it does not come from platitudes or working to implement ideals, because that’s external. It is knowing with the heart, not with the mind. So, how does one come to that?

2. “Worst First”

No authentic progress in feeling better about yourself can occur, or stick, until you first feel much worse about yourself.

Optimists despise this reality, but pretend in ignorance of every wisdom tradition in history.

Beware of the false gentleness by which sources of affirmation prey on you to keep you in limbo. There is no breaking out of this superficial loop until you feel much worse about yourself.

From AA to Buddha to the Bible to Carl Jung, authentic growth demands we recognize our denial of the undeniable.

No one in history has EVER felt “prepared” to take this step into their inner darkness. It is ALWAYS forced by one or a couple life events.

No one EVER feels ready to confess their utter brokenness to themselves and face their abject failures. And THAT is why gentle therapies won’t take you there. They don’t want to lose you. And you don’t want to go there. A perfect match of procrastination! But, it’s also why so many clients relapse into depression that they haven’t made progress that stuck. Most ultimately abandon therapy before authentic growth.

Many therapy modes and affirmation material like “The language of letting go” skate on the superficial surfaces of these two principles, and trap us there by fooling us. We think that just because we recognize some wisdom, that is progress. It won’t stick. That’s external wisdom. It’s no different than memorizing multiplication tables:

You’ll never meet anyone who abandoned therapy because it made them feel too good about themselves!

Think about that truism very carefully.

At some point, every authentic therapy must take the step that results in your feeling much, much worse about yourself before anything good can stick with you for very long. And here is the important thing about that, the fuel these gentle sources feed us as their prey: Do NOT mistake your prior bad feelings as this step into your darkness. You have suffered as a victim of others. But this step, into your own darkness, involves suffering that originates when you become conscious that you yourself are a victimizer.


To read more about stepping into your own darkness, Google this quote oft-attributed to Carl Jung:
“The reason modern people can’t see God is that they won’t look low enough”

Why do we get trapped into goal-seeking in therapy? The sequel to this article explains that we are drawn to goals in general, by our biology that’s so irresistible. What’s so easily and subtly overlooked is this: Biological evolution wired us for survival, not contentment; contentment and survival are a paradox that calls us to look for truths that transcend what we think are facts. Therapy goals trap us in envy (which, like shame, is the opposite of feeling better): “Beware of therapy goals! (2) Envy and the Pitfalls of Validation


Neil D. 2020-10-15

Published by Neil Durso

Just another mid-lifer sharing the journey...

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