This is the second SharePost in the series devoted to my round of cognitive therapy sessions. I want to write about the last of the 10 meetings because it was life-changing. In one fifty-minute hour the therapist enabled me to get to the root of what happened when I was 32 and felt I had been attacked. I told him that I always understood each person involved in an interaction brings his or her past experiences and beliefs to the table and that influences how he or she acts. The therapist suggested a possible reason why the other guy responded as he did and it was one I hadn't thought of that brought closure on the event.
As well, I touched on something that turned out to be related: how I felt I needed to be supported and understood when I was kid, and my mother subtly reinforced that I was not okay as I am. I told the therapist my mother said that when she looked in the mirror and wanted to cry, she would break the mirror rather than cry. She thought I was a crybaby. I was a sensitive, quirky, creative kid. I felt she would only love me if I conformed to her expectations. I got the idea that there was something wrong with me. I told the therapist how I felt I got sick because I was cut off from expressing my feelings.
He cut to the heart of this: "You may have gotten the message from your mother that not only is it not okay to express emotion, but it is not okay even to feel emotion."
He wrote down two of his responses to what we talked about. He said, "You may be bringing your past experiences to present situations, which then shape your interpretations to form the theme that there is something wrong or unacceptable about you."
Also: "If you find yourself having a difficult emotional response: Ask yourself if there could be an alternative interpretation. This involves acceptance, while also providing you with alternatives."
In short, I need to allow myself to interpret things the way I do yet at the same time ask, "Could there be a different reason why something happened or someone acted the way he or she did?"
Brainstorming the possibilities allows us to put things in perspective. We are thus able not to take things personally. Years of subconscious conditioning can result in one single comment or action. We are all vulnerable. As soon as two people get together, you have the chance for misinterpretation as well as communication. We have no control over how others interpret what we say or do and we often have no control over how we interpret what others say and do.
This is a circuitous dance like an unspoken tango. What each of us can do is choose our response instead of falling back on persistent automatic thoughts.
I looked for a simplification of what I learned that could be boiled down into two at the most three sentences. It is this: as long as you have two people in an interaction, two parties involved in a communication, you will encounter a power struggle based on each person's frame of reference. You need to understand the other person's point of view instead of defending your own. This subtle shift will enable you to begin the process of executing what I called in a SharePost the "win-win."
It is always about the win-win. We are all as human beings vulnerable to how others treat us. When one person in an exchange meets another person, he or she will be sensitive to whether their needs will be met. We all have the need to be treated with dignity-it is the principle the win-win is founded on. So it is our job to see that the other person feels accepted, understood and included.
You cannot always know what's going on in someone else's head-you can only be open to them and act in a generous spirit to acknowledge their pain. That in the end is what success in life involves: accepting other people as they are and not trying to change them and to always strive to understand where they're coming from.
When we respond in an automatic way, not only does it prevent other people from winning, it cuts us off from our own healing. So the choice is ours. I made the choice to take the money I received from a raise at work and buy 10 sessions of cognitive therapy. It was well worth the expense. Everything I've written in this SharePost I discovered in one fifty-minute session.
The rest is up to me. As the therapist ended the meeting, he said, "Now go out and be your own therapist." I will do this. It is the beginning of my new life. I move forward with confidence now. I would recommend cognitive therapy to anyone who is stuck in a negative thought pattern that needs unsealing like a stuck jar lid. With cognitive therapy you can open the lid to new possibilities.
Published On: January 08, 2010