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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Tragedy of Thinking

One thing I know about myself: I'm not very popular as a Confessor.
People come to me for confession very infrequently, sometimes only once before they find someone else.  It isn't because I don't listen, or that I hand out 3-year excommunications like breath mints. 
From what I can tell, it is because I usually say things too directly for people to handle at that moment.  It is not a very good habit.  Sure, it makes for an entertaining blog, but when people are on pins and needles in the struggle with their egos... most folks don't want a shove.
Part of how I know this is that people come back later and tell me that they were not ready to hear what I had to say.  It took a while before they could digest it.
'Talking therapies' can be much the same way.  Sometimes they can be overly challenging.  Other times, not challenging enough.
They can also be dangerous, especially when someone is struggling with severe mental illness.  Yet, too often the approach is just to find a counselor you like rather than one with a proven track record.
This is starting to get some attention-
We are in an age where counseling and therapy are so wildly popular that the lingo has become part of our daily discourse.  People use the stilted and awkward terminology of pop psychology in normal discourse to the point where you may wonder whether the person has been through years of psychology or went to college (notice how new college grads are jam-packed with bizarre terminology inculcated by their professors, who never seem to leave the isolating bubble of academia to converse with normal people).
Troubled people can become much more troubled by someone who does not challenge them.
In the latest mass murder in California (in an area I am very familiar with, having served a parish just north of the location), the killer had been in therapy since age 8 and,
Other friends of Peter Rodger said he was “heartbroken” and “did everything he could”, including engaging top specialists, but his son turned his back on therapy as an adult and refused to take medication. 
Many of these types of events have been tied to psychotropic medications, and especially the cessation of them.  Of course, the industry doesn't really want much more than the standard warnings.  We may never know what he perhaps was on (or off) or what he was being treated for, but therapy is serious business.
In recovery, a lot of what is going on is NOT therapy.  Therapy is all about engaging the thoughts.  Recovery is largely about the simple rejection of them.  You don't have to really go deep with the inner 'rationality' of a thought to know it is simply irrational when exposed to the light of day, and so the Steps themselves can be worked quickly and without years 'on the couch' because the outcomes are judged rather than the processes.
In essence, all you really need to do is look at the thought for what it is, rather than why you may be having it, and that alone should judge its value.
The thoughts of an addict are often simply too convoluted and distorted for talking therapy to work in, which is why it fails so often, whereas 12 Steps has an overall higher success rate.  Of course, you can't use it to treat every problem, but I do think that a lot of problems people go to therapy for would do better to follow the old AA admonishment about thinking: stop.
This does not mean be stupid.  It means stop indulging your thought processes with destructive thoughts and just deal with the things in front of you as they are, rather than how you would like them or what they might become later.
Therapy often removes the client from the present and creates this obsession with a past that is largely a construct that the person can choose to ignore.  Yes, you don't have to believe all of your thoughts.  They are optional.
Therapy can be helpful, but spending 20 years in it is probably a sign that you are doing something wrong. 
It may also leave someone a prisoner of his thoughts.
My prayers to all the victims in this story, and for all those who suffer from their thoughts.


1 comment:

  1. I must admit that I have to be the king of being too direct, with a flavor of intensity in my case (I say bold things in an unrestrained manner). This makes for a great generic impulse, but lacks definition/texture. I have noticed that people often don't like it when others don't pay attention to their actual particularities and nuances. I mean, they expect me to hear and understand them, but I actually try to motivate and get them to change. This earns me respect, but not popularity.