• Uncategorized,  What is Therapy

    Reconciliation

    Last week South Africa celebrated its Day of Reconciliation.  The shifting significance of this day tells an interesting story, in itself, about our nation’s transformational history.  Originally signifying the victory of the Afrikaners over the Zulus, at the Battle of the Blood River, later becoming the anniversary of the formation of the armed wing of the ANC (Umkhonto we Sizwe) – it now signifies the importance of ‘coming together’ rather than a day of ‘being at odds’. The day left me wondering about the significance of “reconciliation” in therapy.  Although, theoretically, such a dominant theme in our work, it is perhaps a concept that is given very little practical application. …

  • Relationships,  Uncategorized,  What is Therapy

    an unexpected conversation with ‘grief’

    Working with grief is not necessarily considered one of my specialisations.  But, when you work with people’s life experiences on a daily basis, grief becomes an inevitable theme in many of your conversations.  A young woman has been meeting with me for several weeks and, from time to time, the subject of her father’s death arises.  Her father’s death was not necessarily the central reason for her coming to see me and it has never been her dominant concern in our conversations.  To put this in context, although I do believe that psychodynamic ideas like “defensiveness” and “denial” have their merit, I am not a therapist who chooses to relate…

  • Relationships,  Uncategorized,  What is Therapy

    it is me who learns

    Over more than a year, I have been having conversations from time to time with a deeply committed couple.  The two of them actively engage with each other (and their individual self’s) on an intellectual, emotional and spiritual level.  The last time we met, something about the conversation (that I cannot recall) led me to suggest to them, especially the wife (whom I will refer to as S) who has written a book on her experience of depression, that they read my blog.  Having great respect for their opinion, rather than have them learn something from my blog, I was most interested in their overall feedback.  I am very appreciative…

  • Uncategorized,  What is Therapy

    I, reluctant Freudian

    I, reluctant Freudian Freud, reluctantly postmodern It is part of my post-modern identity to distinguish the kind of therapy that I do from that of more traditional forms, especially psychoanalysis. However, if I am really honest with myself, Freud’s vocabulary is so imbedded in the language of psychology that I might often be using it without even realizing. But, what would make the insights of a single man have such a revolutionary and lasting impact on how we treat and understand ourselves? Reading The Writer’s Voice, by Al Alvarez, – he comments on how writers don’t just hold a mirror up to reality by creating an imitation of life, “they create…

  • Uncategorized,  What is Therapy

    Madness! In me or upon me?

    I have more recently come to respect the idea of mental illness.  It does seem possible that we can become involved and even stuck in lasting patterns of deeply destructive thought, behaviour or realities. It also seems possible that pharmacological support for such difficulty can be helpful.  Furthermore, I must confess that I have even become aware that many people might willingly embrace the illness labels that they are given by professionals.  For instance, understanding relatively destructive and habitual sexual behaviour as a “sexual addiction” might help in gaining some sense of control over it, avoiding the behaviour in future and encouraging support from partners in dealing with the behaviour. …

  • Uncategorized,  What is Therapy

    The Language of Psychology

    I have come to understand that our thinking is influenced (often in ways that we don’t recognise) by certain “cultures of understanding”.  One of these “cultures of understanding” is psychology itself.  In my conversations with people about their problems, I have begun to witness how ‘psychology’ seems to have influenced us into thinking that if we just chastise ourselves enough then we will “get better”.   As an undergrad student, each time I learned a new pathology, with strange excitement I would point out all the traits I had that approached mental illness.  Somehow, pointing out my own pathos to myself became, what I believed to be at the time, a…