Discover What you are Hiding From.
It is embedded in humans that we protect ourselves from both internal and external threats to our homeostatic state. This can be our immune system fighting off a disease or can be a painful memory that we do not think about. People who come to therapy are often looking to relieve a certain type of symptom/s or to “fix” something. For example, a common call or e-mail I get is people wanting to relive or get rid of their depression or anxiety. Of course this is a very important goal that one should focus on in treatment, but getting to etiology of such mental health disorder is not always that simple.
There are several different ways a therapist can conceptualize and treat one’s mental health condition, but the one that resonates with me the most in regards to getting to the root of the problem is called Psychodynamic Psychotherapy. Before I go any further, let me explain this treatment modality that often gets a bad rap because it is gravely misunderstood. From this approach, a patient’s presenting concern (depression, anxiety and or an eating disorder) may not be entirely based on one’s conscious awareness, but instead may be operating on a deeper level that is out of a person’s consciousness. A metaphor that I use when meeting with people is a tree. You have the branches, leaves, the crown, and stem that are all visible to the human eye, but underneath that you have the roots and trunk of the tree that give it life. Imagine that the one’s symptoms of anxiety is what is visible, or in this example, the leaves and branches, but what causes the anxiety? The root may be one’s fear of failure or a feeling that a person has to constantly be on guard given a childhood trauma. Humans have several ways of dealing with painful or difficult thoughts/emotions and one of the primary ways of dealing with such internal conflict is suppression or at the very least, trying to keep them out of their awareness.
If we break down the word Psychodynamic we find it highlights how complicated the human mind can be. “Psycho” means mind and “dynamic” means forces that are constantly moving or in motion. Thoughts and emotions are constantly in motion, rising to the surface, and coming in and out of awareness. Just like the root of the tree, they may not be visible but have a prominent impact on our relationships, sense of self, and how we experience our environment.