Therapy: The Talking Cure
A question I get asked quite often is ‘should I try to work this problem out for myself, or do I need some help?’. It’s a fair question, as there are many things that we can and should work out for ourselves. But for questions related to how we feel and relate to other people, it isn’t very useful.
Working yourself out
Many people struggle for a long time to work themselves out. They buy books, read them all, think a lot about it and come up with conclusions that sometimes only last as long as the next book they read. This effort to sort yourself out is noble and is to be applauded, and many people accomplish some significant strides with it. There has even been a recent study that indicates that the things that we struggle to learn are the things that we often retain.
However, if you are considering learning about yourself, this approach makes things harder than they need be. We learn about people through relating to people and this is true for learning about ourselves. Our earliest experience of this was with our close caregivers, when we started to learn about people through our interactions with our parents.
Too close to the problem
Another of the difficulties with this is that using your own mind as an instrument to try to measure your own mind is very difficult; The mind that it trying to make the change is the same mind you are trying to change – you are too close to the problem to be able to see it with enough clarity.
Still, this approach has it’s attractions. If relating to people has been a source of pain, misunderstanding or even trauma for you, then trying to work it out by yourself can seem like a safe option – there are no complicating relationships to stress your further.
Thinking and talking
However, what we now know about learning indicates that the way that we organise our thoughts is very much related to a verbalisation process. When we speak our thoughts to another we talk ourselves through them and understand them in a way which is new for us. Their responses help us to think further, and sometimes from a new perspective. Further, in speaking and then hearing what we say, we start to encode our thoughts in a different way that becomes more coherent, more organised and more ‘tested’. To try to sort out human problems without this process limits the likely success of the process of understanding yourself.
– Tim Hill
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