WHAT IS SIGNIFICANT PSYCHOLOGICAL CHANGE?
EVEN JETER HAD TO BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING
Ever since I have been conscious I have always been intrigued by the nature of significant psychological change. Thus it is no coincidence that I majored in Philosophy in college and have become a psychoanalyst - a professional change agent.
Just what is meant by significant when applied to psychological change? Even among many of my peers there is a lack of comprehension as to what it is I am referring to. This consternation was recently stirred up in a commentary I made on another web site when I asserted that research indicates that it takes approximately 750 to 1000 analytic hours (45 -50 minute sessions) to effect significant psychological change.
Apparently these were fighting words. Many of my peers jumped all over me stating categorically that they had both been helped and indeed have helped others to significantly change in considerably shorter periods of time. Indeed some said they were changed forever in the very first session.
I appreciate and respect their experience. However, while it is difficult to do, I feel obligated to insist that I too have a valid point of view and will try to make it clear in the following response I made to one of my peers.
Dear L: - I will not attempt to dispute your remarkable life defining rapid experience. I know exactly what you are referring to. I had a number of such epiphanies with my analyst often at the beginning of my lengthy psychoanalysis. For example one day when I felt particularly depressed and pitiful he correctly identified the state I was in. I said to him what many new patients say: why me? He answered in a direct and firm manner: why not you?
Another time about 5 months later when I was attempting poorly to learn how to tolerate frustration and not blow up particularly around a toxic person I said to him that I was able to contain myself ok enough in the sessions with him in a safe and supportive atmosphere but once outside once triggered I was unable to keep my balance. He reassured me I could or at least would be able to do so. I challenged him saying asking me to change my attitude to frustration is like telling me that I can change my breathing.
Once again he calmly but firmly answered: but Yogis learn to change their breathing.
There were many such major points of enlightenment that truly led to significant and permanent attitudinal change. But I am referring to something more and I believe different. It is hard to describe. Try the following. With some patients at intake they experience themselves as mixed up jig saw pieces that exist on 17 different levels. They seem to have no idea of how they became so fragmented and are at a loss as to how to get themselves back into a state of unity.
They are also aware of having multiple overlapping issues any one of which initially feels to be just short of overwhelming to change. They suffer from issues of being and doing. They lack clear identities and thereby have enormous difficulties taking themselves seriously, connecting to their creative selves, harnessing and directing their often conflicted energies towards attaining and sustaining meaningful connections with themselves, their loves, and their work.
Another way to view what it is I am referring to. Let's say you have a son who wishes to be a star athlete. At age 5 he says I want to be a Yankee like Jeter. So begins at the beginning learning how to hold a bat and hit a t ball. He also has to learn how to be a team member, get over the fear of having a hard ball sent his way, toss a ball with accuracy and the likes.
He has to work his way up the ranks and eventually deal with issues of success, partial success, failure - team and individual. He has to learn how to cope with missed expectations, frustrations of all kinds, lack of praise by the coaches, teasing by some fellow team members.
If he is sufficiently motivated he keeps trying out for the next higher team. If he really wants to excel he is encouraged to practice on his own, go to batting cages and the like. Each rung up the ladder he encounters additional hurdles that have to be overcome. Inevitably someone won't like him and will go all out to knock him down or discourage him from continuing.
If he has talent and progresses he will have to learn to deal with inevitable envy. He also to keep his own inflated notions of himself in check.
If he continues to progress he has to own to his own realistic abilities and take himself seriously.
If he keeps on track he may indeed become a Yankee. Why not? All Yankees started out this way - even Jeter. But putting it all together over time is obviously no easy deal. There is little magic and the results are due to persistence over time encountering and overcoming inevitable hurdles, eventually experiencing realistic fruits of victory the normal outcome of having struggled with struggle.
I hope I have made my point.