Feeling Sad, Anxious, Angry, and Other Unpleasant Feelings. Is It Okay? And How Can Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Help?

The quick answer to this question is yes. All of us at various times feel sad, anxious, angry, and other feelings that we often deem unpleasant, negative, or even undesirable. The fact of the matter is that we need to be able to experience these feelings in order to be fully human and functional. If we are unable to experience sadness from time to time it becomes hard to fully appreciate feelings of happiness and joy.  Carl Jung once famously said "Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and even the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity". Basically we need to be able to experience so called negative and unplesant feelings  to help us to appreciate other more positive and enjoyable feelings. So called negative or unplesant feelings can also be very useful, as they can help to tell us that something is wrong and that we need to do something about it. Feeling angry when someone has wronged us can help us to stand up for ourselves and if we handle the situation well, it can stop us from being mistreated further. If we feel afraid or anxious it may be a signal that we need to be careful in a sitaution and not throw caution to the wind. Sadness may tell us that we are not living as we should be and not being true to ourselves. Of course if we are feeling miserable, constantly anxious, or often angry then this is a problem and is a good sign that something (or possibly many things) is not wrking well in our life and we need to do something about it. This is of course where psychotherapy can be very useful. Some people unfortunately get upset, impatient with themselves, or even judge themselves harshly simply for having feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety or other negative feelings and what to completly eliminate them. Trying to avoid unplesant feelings and escape them, can of  course can be a problem in itself, as it prevents us from being fully human and enjoying the fullness of life. Being able to accept and tolerate a wide range of emotions is a sign of maturity and good mental health. Psychoanalytic psychotherapy can help with this and allow us to better understand our emotions and come to tolerate them, even possibly learn to enjoy them and get more out of life. Just remember that you are not a robot, but a human being. You do not get to choose your emotions. The alternative to not having all of your feelings, is to feel numb.  In the video below Dr Chris Heath talks about feelings of sadness and how feeling sad can be helpful at times and even necessary.  



How Our Relationships As Adults Are Influenced By Our Unconscious And Early Relationships From Childhood

Many people wonder why they keep repeating the same unfulfilling kinds of relationships, be they romantic relationships, friendships, work relationships, or even why they may respond to their own children in the ways they hated their own parents responding to them. The quick answer is that our early relational experiences with significant caregivers and love objects colours our emotional world and becomes a significant part of our unconscious. In psychoanalytic theory we often refer to this as a person's internal object relations. This is because as small children we take these early relational experiences with significant others into our unconscious world (be these good or bad relational experiences) and these "internal objects" become unconscious psychic structures within us and take on a life of their own. This is ultimately because we unconsciously seek out what is emotional familiar to us, be this good or bad. We often do this because we wish to repeat these good and bad relational experiences. In the case of good experiences, this is not usually a problem, but in the case of bad experiences, we often unconsciously repeat them in order to better understand our early bad experience and correct what originally happened. What is interesting is that our internal objects can be changed and modified via relational experiences with others. One of the most effective ways of doing this is via psychotherapy, where the therapy relationship can be used to better understand our internal object relations and help us to become emotionally freer. I was recently reading the article below and thinking about how it relates to the concept of internal objects. You can read it by clicking the link below. 

Your Worst Relationships Can Be Traced Back To The Emotional Map Created In Early Childhood

Some Reasons To Be In Therapy

I recently posted some videos of actors, writers, directors, and other people working in creative fields discussing what they found beneficial about being in therapy. Here psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr Chris Heath lists some compelling reasons why it is a good idea to undergo psychotherapy. The list of reasons is not exhaustive by any means, but is a good start. Some of the reasons include: improving performance and overcoming shame and doubt, respecting yourself more, being listened to in ways others do not listen to you and learning to listen to yourself better, personal growth, and having a safe space for yourself in which you can say whatever you want to.


Problems With New American Evidence-Based Guidelines for Therapy With Survivors of Trauma, Part II.

Back in November, I posted an article from Psychology Today by Jonathan Shedler from the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Shedler was highly critical of the new American Psychological Association's (APA) guidelines for treating survivors of psychological trauma. He argued that therapists should be highly sceptical of the guidelines and the evidence relied upon in developing these guidelines. Furthermore, Shedler asserted that the evidence relied upon in the development of these new guidelines not only ignored a lot of good evidence available, they even contradicted a lot of the available evidence on what makes therapy work well. This article certainly has set the cat amongst the pigeons, so to speak, with a number of other well-known figures in psychology stepping in to defend the guidelines. Several of these figures have good reason to want to defend the guidelines, as these people were involved in the development of the new APA guidelines. Now another leading figure in the world of psychotherapy research and training, Dr Scott D. Miller co-founder of the International Centre for Clinical Excellence and the Institute for the Study of Therapeutic Change, has weighed in on the debate. Miller has taken a detailed and critical look at the new APA guidelines. Not only has Miller echoed may of Shedler's criticisms of the new APA guidelines, he has gone even further, noting that the recomended treatments in the new APA guidelines were not even compared to another type of psychotherapy, but were only compared to a relaxation script, where research participants simply listened to a relaxation script each day and were not permitted to talk about their experience with a therapist. Miller was also critical of the assertion made by the APA guidelines that recommend  only "trauma-focussed" therapies be used in the treatment of psychological trauma. According to Miller, most of the available research evidence overall has found that trauma-focussed therapies are no better in the treatent of psychological trauma than other therapies. Miller has also highlighted that some of the arguments in favour of developing the new guidelines have more to do with political issues within the APA than what is actually needed in providing quality care. You can read Miller's critique of the new APA guidelines by clicking the link below.

Clinical Practice guidelines: Beneficial Development or Bad therapy? 


I was recently reading an article from the New York Times (which I have attached a link to below) about research findings on estrangement. It is often around this time of year with the post end of year holiday break that people think about issues of estrangement from family and sometimes old friends and it is often a time of year when people present to my practice with such issues. This is often due to not being able to spend time with family members that they have become estranged from and they may be considering if they wish to reconnect with those people or not. Sometimes they may be considering ending a family relationship or friendship that has become seriously toxic, and other times they may simply be thinking about those they have become estranged from and contemplating what this means for their life going forward. The article below is fairly consistent with what people have related to me in therapy and looks at some of the myths that research into estrangement has revealed. Some of these are that estrangement happens suddenly when in reality it is something that usually occurs over a period of time. Another is that estrangement is often thought to be rare, when in actuality estrangement is a reasonably common phenomenon. Many people believe that estrangement happens due to a clearly identifiable reason when in reality it is often the result of many reasons. Finally, the common belief that estrangement is generally done on a whim is debunked, with research revealing that the decision to become estranged from someone is often one that is not made lightly. You can read the full article by clicking the link below.

Debunking Myths About Estrangement

Surviving The Festive Season

The end of year festive season can be highly stressful. We often have expectations of having things go the way we want them to and our fantasy of what this time of year should be like can easily take over. It is very hard when we seem to have so much to do and so little time to do it in. In addition, dealing with the needs and demands of others (particularly family members) can leave us feeling overwhelmed. In the video below psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Dr Chris Heath talks about this time of year and how to survive it. The big take-home lesson is to be gentle with yourself and don't get caught up too much in the fantasy of how perfect it all has to be. Try to relax and set appropriate boundaries with family members and others, you are not responsible for their happiness, but you can still be good company. This is my last post for 2017. All the best for the festive season and see you next year in 2018.


What Is It Like To Be In Therapy And What Can I Get Out of It? Part 2.

Following on from my previous post featuring some videos from the series Shrink by Alex Karpovsky and Teddy Banks, I have included some more of these videos. These videos feature people who work in creative fields, who have also been in long-term psychotherapy. In these short videos, they discuss what their experience of therapy was like and what they got out of it. The first the videos below features Lena Dunham (star, creator, and executive producer of the HBO TV series Girls).

Lena Dunham (Writer, Actress, Producer, and Director) on her experiences of psychotherapy.


Kimberley Peirce (Director) discusses her time in psychotherapy.


Natasha Lyonne (Actress) discusses her experiences and gains from psychotherapy.


What Is It Like To Be In Therapy And What Can I Get Out of It?

People often what to know what the experience of being in therapy is like and what people get from it. Alex Karpovsky (producer, director, writer, and actor in HBO TV series Girls) and Teddy Banks (designer and musician) have put together a series of short and witty videos, featuring some people who work in creative fields, who also happen to have been in long-term psychotherapy. In these videos, they talk about what it was like to be in psychotherapy and what they believe they got out of it. The series is called Shrink and I have included some videos from the series below. I will post some more of these videos in the next week or so. The first one features comedian, Sarah Silverman.

Sarah Silverman (Comedian) talks about her experience of psychotherapy.


Susan Orlean (Journalist and Author) on her experience of psychotherapy.


Gary Shteyngart (Author) discusses being in psychoanalysis.


Memory And How It Colours Our Experience Of Everyday Life

I really enjoy the videos of Dr Chris Heath. He often provides thoughtful short videos on various psychoanalytic topics that can help us think about our minds and experiences in new ways. In the video below, he looks at the topic of memory and how it colours all of our experiences and even our social interactions. He also explains how memory is not just a cognitive process, but involves our emotions too. 


Long Term Effects of Child Neglect.

Years ago I worked as a therapist with abused and neglected children. Often these children had experienced some of the worst abuse and neglect imaginable. Quite often people focus on the psychological impact of children traumatised by abuse and we as therapists often see adults who have experienced horrible abuse. Childhood abuse can have significant implications for later functioning as adults. This abuse can affect relationships and general psychological functioning and there is now evidence that this can also have consequences for physical health as well, with adults who were abused as children having a higher likelihood of developing a range of chronic physical health conditions. What many people often don't consider is the impact of long-term childhood neglect and its impact on later adult functioning. People who were neglected as children are also highly susceptible to developing psychological disorders as adults and of having chronic difficulties with self-worth and getting their needs met in relationships. Many times people who were neglected as children struggle with feeling worthy as people. The following article from Psychology Today touches on some of the issues faced by people who were neglected as children and how this also has implications for later brain development. If you experienced serious neglect as a child, remember that it is still possible to find your worth in the world.  To read the article just click the link below. 

The Long-Term Effects of A Childhood of Neglect