Know thyself and upgrade to a better version of you

This is one of the main reasons to come to therapy. To learn about yourself. “know thyself” is a phrase that originates in ancient Greece and has a variety of meanings in philosophy and literature dating back to Socrates who stated that it seems useless to seek out information on things outside oneself until one knows themselves. In fact, how can we claim to know anything until we know ourselves? What inspires me? What brings me down? What do I need to do daily to be happy, content, satisfied, and blissful? What sort of people are toxic to me? What are the behavior patterns I am practicing now and are they serving me well? What sort of patterns do I make in how I relate to the opposite sex, my work, my family? And so on.
Knowing ourselves has an obvious intrinsic value but it also paves the way to know others. We might identify something of ourselves in others. This helps us relate and have a sense of their experience. This strengthens our ability to be compassionate as well as engage in meaningful ways with others. Therefore knowing ourselves improves relationships with others. The inverse is also true, when we do not identify or relate with someone, self- knowledge is what informs us that we are NOT identifying and leads us to become more curious about the other. Without self- knowledge we might assume that we are simpatico with our friend and assume we understand their experience, when in fact we do not. Self- knowledge involves knowing our bodies, our minds, our emotions, and our behaviors.
Psychotherapy gives us the method of study to know ourselves. In therapy sessions I use various techniques to help you know yourself. Awareness is the most important and most readily used technique we will practice. Before you embark on changing anything in your life or about yourself, you must become aware of your thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Together, we can usually trace the beginnings of favored behavior patterns that have become habitual over time. Typically, all patterns of behavior have a very useful and practical origin and somehow we never noticed that its usefulness faded over the years. You may be using, old, outdated coping that is no longer that useful and, in fact, could be working against you. You will discover that through your therapy sessions.
Let’s use a technology metaphor, we are forever “upgrading” outdated technology. Wouldn’t it make sense to upgrade our self-knowledge technology periodically? Maybe you are still running version 1.0 or 2.0 and you are now 30 or 40 years old. Therapy is like upgrading to a new and improved version of yourself through self-knowledge.

The magic of talking

Why is talking therapeutic?

Most of us talk to our friends,family and coworkers about our lives and that is an essential part of participating in meaningful relationships. However, that is quite different than “talk therapy “. First , there is the environment of talk therapy. It is a quiet space with you and your therapist. There are no other distractions or interruptions during your session time. In Gestalt therapy we refer to this as “the field”. The field is a person in his or her life space at any given moment. In the field of the therapy office, The emphasis is on observing, describing, and explicating. In Gestalt therapy, we study by phenomenological focusing, experimenting, self report, and dialogue (Yontef, 1982, 1983). You may consider this environment a laboratory of sorts. Talking then , in this particular environment or field, stands apart from the talking you may do anywhere and with anyone else.

“Hearing yourself speak”.
I cannot tell you how many times a client says ” I really never thought of it that way until I just heard myself say it here ” or ” I am just putting this together now as I am hearing myself talk about it. ” Gestalt therapy teaches the client the phenomenological method of awareness which focuses more on what is happening than what is discussed. This means process rather than content, although both are important. As this awareness develops you will hear yourself differently than ever before and be able to use what you hear for further experimentation, exploration and understanding of yourself and your needs. Hearing oneself with this kind of intention , curiosity and openness is in an of itself a profound therapeutic intervention.

“Being heard”
This seems to be the social problem of the 21st century. ” I want to talk to a live person!” What is it about a live person that we all crave. Being listened to intently gives your words a landing point which then reverberates back to you indicating that you were heard. It is essentially validation of your existence on the planet,and pointedly, your current existential dilemma. Talk therapy is therapeutic because being heard and acknowledged is a basic human need. Imagine a baby crying, what use is it if no one hears.

“Dialogue”
The relationship between the therapist and client is long known as the most important aspect of talk therapy. In gestalt therapy the dialogue IS the most essential method used. There is “you” and the “not you” in a dialogue. Talk therapy helps the client become aware of that boundary between you and the other (the therapist). Even though you have plenty of dialogue all day long, this is a special study of the “how” and “what” of the dialogue with your therapist. Again awareness is key in honing in on what you are experiencing as you engage in dialogue with your therapist. Here you begin to understand self-regulation. That is how you are managing yourself to get the kind of contact you need at the moment and also can you recognize when you have had enough contact and how to organize a withdrawal from the contact. In Gestalt therapy, contact is the experience of the boundary between the “me” and the “not me”. How you manage yourself at this boundary is important for optimal mental health and life force energy. There is a whole lot going on in the dialogue between you and your therapist than it appears and this will be become part of your therapy process.

“The immediate experience”
In Gestalt therapy , Your immediate experience is whats most useful and actively used. It is a process of discovering and clarifying how you experience yourself, the other, the field, and the world according to you. Talk therapy will help you deconstruct what you are experiencing in the immediate moment and then draw connections of that experience to your life outside of the therapy session. Gestalt therapy emphasizes that whatever exists is here and now and that experience is more reliable than interpretation. You will learn how to tell the difference between talking about what occurred five minutes ago (or last night or 20 years ago) and experiencing what is now.

“The existential view holds that people are endlessly remaking or discovering themselves. There is no essence of human nature to be discovered “once and for all.” There are always new horizons, new problems and new opportunities”. (Gary Yontef).

Tips for Winter Blues, Get winterized !

We know we have to winterize our houses, our cars, our lawns but what about ourselves. It seems just after the enjoyable fall comes the deep dark devastating winter. One by one, clients come into my office sharing their struggle with the winter cold and darkness. Many experience an uptick in depressive symptoms.
It is estimated that at least a half million Americans suffer from some amount of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which is a depressive disorder caused by lack of sunlight. To read more on SAD check out www.Psychcentral.com .
Here are some tips for meeting the challenge of winter.
1. Attitude – The right attitude means understanding the natural flow of the seasons is a necessary part of the cycle of life. Focus your mind on the fact that this is temporary. A few months of time and that will, indeed, pass. You can do some reading on nature and what happens to animals and plant life in winter. This can give you a new appreciation and even a fascination with what happens in winter. Set your expectation for it to be cold out each morning. Then winter will meet your expectations.
2. Dress appropriately- This may seem trivial and obvious but I cannot tell you how many people I see weekly that are not wearing proper coats, no hat, no gloves or scarves. Dressing warm makes a world of different in your perception of the day. Think if you were to wear a hat and scarf in July. You may feel very irritable. It is very irritating and downright stressful to your nervous system not to dress warm in winter. It’s worth a try.
3. Get physical – This is very important. We plan all sort of summer activities. Ever think that’s another reason summer is so much better. We are social and engaged with others. We are productive doing some project on our lawns or garages. Plan activities for winter. It is especially important to be physical in some way. There are plenty of affordable gyms to go to and walk on the treadmill, take yoga or dance classes or try a winter sport such as skiing. The cold air is amazingly stimulating and enlivening. You can also use DVDs or an exercise video through your cable company or use a Wii system.
4. Sunlight – Darkness is one major depressing fact of winter. Therefore, it is important to get yourself outdoors in the light of day on weekends. This is something of an intervention you can do for yourself. You can also purchase a lightbox made specifically for this purpose. These can be purchased through Amazon.
5. Projects – winter is a great time to finally clean out the closet or the garage or paint the bedroom. It’s perfect for re-organizing all the things you don’t get to in summer.
6. Socializing – Get together with friends and play board games or watch football. Join a book club. Play Wii together.