We still lack a lot of understanding of how the mind works, especially in treating depression
We often avoid our ‘unsettling truths’
Self awareness takes honesty and courage
I read an article recently in the Guardian regarding psychoanalysis versus cognitive behavioral therapy. Sometimes I read these types of articles because I am interested in the way the mind works, and I just happen to be a nerd that way.
This post is not a review of the article, but I did find some of the discussion interesting where it comes to understanding how the mind works – or rather our lack of understanding. Traditional Freudian based psychoanalysis is characterized by people laying on the couch, spending months on end delving into past experience, emotions and childhood. You have probably seen characterizations of this on television and the media.
On the other side, there is the cognitive behavioral approach, where the patient tries to learn what patterns there are when negative thoughts come up and how to change negative actions in order to change results. Treatment is often short term and fact based, which makes it desirable from both a health care perspective (its cheaper) and from a patient perspective (there are quick, measurable results).
I won’t take sides on the issue, because I’m not an expert in the field. What these approaches have in common is the long sought after understanding of how we make decisions, how we feel the way we do, why we get depressed or anxious and how we can lead a relatively more peaceful and healthy life. Of course pharmaceuticals often are added to the mix, as well as a combination of approaches.
The debate has raged long on which method is best for treating mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. We simply do not know enough of the mind to possess a silver bullet as yet, and are beating on a broken machine with various tools, hoping something works. I have been the broken machine at times, so do have some experience from the receiving end to attest to this.
Again, there is no judgment here, and any help is always welcome.
The line that caught my attention was an observation by the author of the article, that “we are often deeply emotionally invested in preserving our ignorance of unsettling truths.” The resonated with me as an ‘aha’ sort of statement, and reflected what I have believed, but have never stated so clearly.
The reason this quote is important to me is also that my mission is to help those who feel like their life is lacking in some way, to find their purpose, set a course and follow it. For many, myself included, this is a process of self discovery, often involving facing those ‘unsettling truths.’ These may be fear, lack of confidence, lack of direction, decision making processes that are counter-productive and our own mental programming that we are not consciously aware of, because we are deeply emotionally invested in avoiding awareness.
One of the last lines in the article states “What happens in therapy is that people come in asking for help, and then the very next thing they do is they try to stop you helping them.”
This blog is not about therapy, but it does require one to take an inward examination of core values and beliefs. If there are personal improvements to be made to the way we think, that takes honesty and courage. Though our programming may serve to prevent us from facing painful truths, the process of self awareness is essential in beginning to build a better life.
Some of the most difficult experiences I have had have resulted from me denying there was a problem for far too long. It is sometimes easier to become complacent and settle for what is known, than to face the realities of the situation and take action to change it. It is my opinion this is why so many people stay in jobs they do not like, or stay in loveless marriages.
Life is complex, of course, and there are a whole host of factors that inform our decisions for our lives.
My challenge to you is to take a broad look at your own life and look for areas that you believe could use some improvement. It may be obvious, but it could be much more subtle. What would you change, if you could, that would make your life better? Do you have the courage to face the ‘unsettling truths’ if you have any?
Life is precious and there is always room for more fulfillment and joy. To start living a more complete life, start here with How to Live a Life of Purpose.