The Truth About Disappointment in Psychotherapy (And Why You May Benefit From It.)

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“The most important things that each man must learn no one can teach him. Once he accepts this disappointment, he will be able to stop depending on the therapist, the guru who turns out to be just another struggling human being.”

-Sheldon Kopp.

Kopp was a very perceptive psychotherapist and writer; this memorable book, below, was written in the early 70’s.

 

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Kopp’s message is about each person becoming aware of the disappointments they experience in psychotherapy and by implication, in their life.

The pain of this will likely lead, if worked through with the help of the therapist, to a sense of freedom, greater confidence, strength and self-actualisation.

However, Kopp warns that therapy is hard and is not to be undertaken lightly. Before this enlightenment happens, people often go through a difficult process in therapy. 

This process usually begins with the realisation that the therapist is not living up to all they had initially hoped for.

Most people come into therapy expecting the therapist to sort things for them, possessing magical ways of changing lives.

Understanding that the therapist does not have any solutions might feel really upsetting. Sometimes, at this juncture, people become despondent, feel lost, or angry with the therapist.

If the therapist doesn’t have the answers, then WHO DOES??

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However, this phase in therapy can represent a crucial turning point. Negotiating such feelings with a sensitive therapist can mean that new learning will occur.

Expectations of the therapist being the longed-for parent or god-like figure (“Buddha”) need to be explored, perhaps in the light of the person’s unmet needs from the past.

When a young man, whom I shall call Peter, came into psychotherapy with me, depressed, self harming and suicidal, he had unconsciously hoped I would be a replacement for his absent mother.

Yet he was so angry that the therapy only lasted 50 minutes, that he spent most of the session watching (and hating) the clock, begging and manipulating me for longer.

The clock itself became a weapon that he perceived me as using against him, merely by having it in my therapy room.

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Focussing on the clock meant he could not use the time we did have. I worked at helping him with this, empathising with his enormous pain, whilst staying firmly within the time boundaries.

At the end of each session, I was, in the transference, his unavailable mother. He was disappointed with me for a long time and furious that there were others in the waiting room for me to see.

They felt like rivalrous siblings for him.

Slowly, as the months passed, he began to see my limitations, that I was a fallible human being and I could not be his fantasy mother.

I could not make the session last for as long as he wanted it (endlessly) and see him exclusively for therapy. This was a huge disappointment.

However, he also realised that I was able to help him develop a kind of ‘parent inside’, a feeling that he could care for himself, so that he no longer felt like an abandoned child. He began to also find some answers of his own.

Despite my shortcomings,  I was not abandoning him. Far from it. Peter began to appreciate what I could offer and forgot the clock. He stayed in therapy twice weekly for several years and grew into a strong, confident person, having accepted some losses and disappointments.

Managing Disappointment in Couple Therapy.

There are many couples who come for therapy disillusioned with each other. Therapy will usually be aimed at exploring expectations, tracing where these have come from and refocussing on reality.

For example, it may be that one or both of the partners had an unhappy childhood and abusive or inadequate parenting. Then, people might search for an ‘ideal’ parental replacement in a partner.

The unconscious hope is that unmet needs from childhood will be totally satisfied. This is, of course, a vain hope, in that we can never fully make up for what has been lost. We cannot be that needy child again.

However, it is possible to work towards meeting one’s unmet needs in a relationship in the present, as long as these are realistic.

Sometimes people are expected to be knights on white chargers, coming to the rescue  after a traumatic past. This is, of course, a recipe for disappointment.

Others are expected to fit the ‘perfect’, stereotyped image of what a wife or husband ‘should’ be, whatever that is in the individual’s psyche.

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Image: James Vaughan, Flickr.

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Such stereotypes are based on past experience, or on fantasy.

How do psychotherapists help people overcome disappointment in relationships ?

In a relationship where expectations are high, people will feel constantly dissatisfied, resenting the fact that the other cannot live up to their exacting standards.

This is about needing to control others, to fit them into a view of how they ought to be. It is often extended outside the relationship, to children, friends and colleagues.

If we expect perfection in others and wish for control , we will be projecting onto them our own thoughts about having to be ideal. We are imposing impossible behavioural criteria that we ourselves could never live up to.

We must question where these high expectations originated. Often, patterns of behaviour experienced as children become repeated in adulthood.

As we saw in Part 1 of this post, expecting the other to be perfect usually involves criticism and accusations. Learning to negotiate, to be non-judgmental and open-minded, compromising and adapting, are ways someone with over-high expectations can address their problems.

Couples and individuals are helped in therapy to work through past disappointments. They are encouraged to explore how they project onto others and ultimately to take back their projections. Then, hopefully, they will be able to accept the other, warts and all.

“You come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly.”
– Sam Keen

Expectation has brought me disappointment. Disappointment has brought me wisdom. Acceptance, gratitude and appreciation have brought me joy and fulfilment.

Rasheed Ogunlaru

When Being Grateful Begins to Grate on Us.

 

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“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

Oprah.

“Gratitude is a burden, and every burden is made to be shaken off.”

Denis Diderot

Gratitude is good………….Isn’t it?

Like thinking positive  it cheers us up……doesn’t it?

Well, it does benefit us if it is our independent choice to be grateful. Authentic, genuinely felt gratitude, honestly expressed, can bring us real benefits. The research clearly shows this.

However, when being grateful feels like an ought or a should, gratitude loses its appeal and benefit.

Unfortunately, the world at times seems to be full of orders to be grateful. Maybe you do not always feel grateful?

So often , when people feel depressed, miserable, down, they are urged to ‘Count their blessings.’

This only increases feelings of guilt and inadequacy and it worsens the situation for the person who is depressed.

It is akin to telling someone who is depressed to ‘think happy thoughts.’ I have explored and expanded this topic in a previous post.

From childhood, many people have been given strong messages about being grateful that are actually quite unreasonable and illogical.

‘Eat your greens- you should be GRATEFUL  for that food – there are children starving in Africa!!’

alien-29939_1280In reality, forcing a child to eat green vegetables by using this guilt-inducing tactic simply invites resentment, increases dislike for the food and also creates puzzlement……….

……How will it help starving children in a faraway country if the child eats this slowly congealing portion of peas?

In addition, ‘having’ to feel grateful is a rather impossible task. How can we tell a child – or anyone for that matter – how they should feel?

Other common injunctions to be grateful:

‘Why do you never phone or visit? After all I’ve given you, you should be indebted to me and phone every day.’

‘What have you got to be miserable about? You have everything! Why aren’t you more grateful?’

Having to feel grateful may also make you feel small, someone who only receives and is at the mercy of others’ generosity.

The Narcissistic Parent:  “You Should be Grateful, after all I’ve done for you.”

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“Narcissists playing the “grandiose” role promote themselves as powerful figures, demanding gratitude and adulation from their child.”

Molly S. Costelloe

Children ‘made’ to be overly grateful for what they are, in fact, entitled to, will develop confused, resentful and often rebellious feelings.

Such narcissistic parenting often involves an implicit expectation to be grateful for being born.

“Some people have a knack of putting upon you gifts of no real value, to engage you to substantial gratitude. We thank them for nothing.”

Charles Lamb

Additionally, people-pleasers may feel that they have to be over-grateful:

“There are slavish souls who carry their appreciation for favours done them so far that they strangle themselves with the rope of gratitude.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

Sometimes gratitude might be seen as having a cynical and manipulative motive  :

‘Gratitude is merely the secret hope of further favours.”

Francois de La Rochefoucauld

HOWEVER : Feeling Real Gratitude Means….

Research  has been carried out which indicates that if a person believes that they have been freely helped, then they can feel grateful more easily. The research paper is entitled ‘You didn’t have to do that…Belief in Free Will Promotes Gratitude.’

The issue of choice therefore works both ways. If the giver gives freely, then the receiver will generally feel more gratitude.

If the person who is helped feels genuinely and freely grateful, then we can be sure that this gratitude is free of coercion and intimidation.

Such sincere, open and true gratitude will have benefits on both sides.

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Gratitude: The Benefits

Gratitude strengthens and enriches relationships. By showing how thankful we are, we make the other person feel appreciated and loved.

This is, as we have seen in last week’s post, a crucial element in a loving, functioning relationship.

“No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.”

Alfred North Whitehead

Instead of always expecting gratitude from children in a narcissistic way, perhaps we can express our gratitude to them. This will again benefit both parent and child.

The child will feel valued, strong, worthwhile and as if he/she has something to give to important others.

superman-2478978_1920It is also a good way of teaching the child to be grateful themselves.

Rather than being ordered to be grateful, if they can see that the parent feels gratitude to them, they will learn to express such feelings themselves.

“Gratitude is one of the greatest gifts we can give. And it’s not a gift we often give to children. We expect it of them, but we don’t necessarily give it back.”

Jason Reynolds

Gratitude has been shown to be beneficial to the one who really feels it. Research indicates that gratitude is important to psychological well-being (Wood, Joseph, Maltby ) and that it enables people to ‘build and maintain social relationships.’

(Bartlett et al.)

It is possible to feel gratitude towards aspects of life other than people. We may be grateful for life, for nature, for love, health freedom.

As we wake up on a beautiful day, we may feel thankful and joyful for being in the world.

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“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Albert Einstein

“The earth has music

                 for those who listen.”      

                                                                -Shakespeare

What are you grateful for today?……….

I really feel so much gratitude to you, the readers and followers of my blog posts, for your loyalty, much needed encouraging feedback and support. 💐

You keep me going and you keep me writing.

To Each And Every One Of You,

Whatever Your Colour, Ethnicity, Nationality, Race, Religion, Gender Identity

In All The Different Corners Of Our Amazing Shared World:

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Linda. 🙏🙏

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THANK YOU!

How You Can Cope With Disappointment. (In Life and In Relationships)

 

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“Disappointment is the nurse of wisdom.”

Sir Boyle Roche

“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.”– Henry David Thoreau

The Disappointments of Life.

is it possible  that we an actually gain from our disappointments?

This might sound an odd question, but think about it. The above quotations would suggest that both wisdom and compensation may ultimately emerge from such an experience.

Initially, of course, it is painful and disheartening to have our hopes and expectations dashed. We might find that, for some time, it is hard to let go of feelings of distress, disillusionment, despondency.

We will most likely feel, depending on the depth of disappointment, a mix of frustration, anger, sadness. Sometimes it feels as though the disappointment may never go away. We may feel depressed and alone with our feelings.

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Edward Hopper – Automat [1927] Image: Gandalf’s Gallery Flickr

However, if we re-read Thoreau’s quote, above, what he says is ‘If we will be quiet and ready enough……’

What might he mean?

The answer to this question may be found in Bridges’ words, below, which at first may seem like a kind of riddle.

“Disenchantment, whether it is a minor disappointment or a major shock, is the signal that things are moving into transition in our lives.”

― William Throsby Bridges

What is implied by the word ‘transition‘?

‘Disenchantment,’ Bridges implies, can lead us into a period of change. It can be a kind of catalyst, precipitating a move towards more self-understanding and personal growth.

It is as if he is saying that there can be life after disappointment; good can emerge from what may have felt bad.

How can this be?

Instead of giving up when we feel disappointed, perhaps there might be something potentially strengthening in such an experience. It may be that there could be valuable learning in terms of having over-high expectations.

When we have some distance from the occurrence and have reached a stage where we are strong enough, we might be able to gain some kind of objective view of ourselves and our situation.

Then we may be able to consider our own behaviour as partly responsible for what has occurred. (Of course, this might not always be the case. But it is worth considering.)

Realistically, could it be that we have hoped for too much?

“Disappointment is the gap that exists between expectation and reality.”
Unknown

“Expectation is the root of all heartache.” Shakespeare

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

Alexander Pope

Having high expectations is far from unusual, but it does lead to let- downs, hurt feelings and disappointments. It might also mean that we cannot enjoy and appreciate what we do have, so preoccupied are we with wanting something more or different.

Disappointment in Marriage and Relationships.

How do high expectations affect relationships? If we expect too much of our partner, as we inevitably do, especially at the start of a relationship, that partner will inevitably fall short.

I believe that, in every relationship, at some point there is disappointment to contend with.

Many enter a relationship or marriage with elaborate fantasies that have developed from life experience, literature, the media and from other people.

Romantic notions and preconceptions of how loving relationships ‘should’ be crowd our consciousness.

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Hearts and flowers are all very well, but real, everyday life is often less romantic and more variable and inconsistent. There are, or course, highs and lows and shades of grey.

Happiness is not a constant feeling, yet some expect relationships to be a permanent rose garden. A bed of roses.

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Sometimes life with your partner might seem full of romantic promise; at others there may be feelings of dislike or hatred between you. More thorns than roses…….

If there are high expectations of perfection, there are likely to be considerable difficulties. Expecting the other to be perfect usually involves criticism, contempt and accusations of not being good enough.

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However, there needs to be awareness of the fact that even though roses have thorns, and people have imperfections, these do not usually detract from their overall beauty.

We just need to be careful of the thorns and to be aware that nothing is flawless. (In any case, the thorns do have a purpose for the rose.)

“You’re not looking for perfection in your partner. Perfection is all about the ego. With soulmate love, you know that true love is what happens when disappointment sets in – and you’re willing to deal maturely with these disappointments.”

Karen Salmansohn

Instead of being critical and disapproving, can we learn to be grateful for and to the other person in a relationship, despite the ‘thorns’?

“When we focus on our gratitude, the tide of disappointment goes out and the tide of love rushes in.”

Kristin Armstrong

If we allow ourselves to feel grateful, it may be that the positive aspects of our partner will crowd out the negatives, bringing increased joy to both.

“Expectation has brought me disappointment. Disappointment has brought me wisdom. Acceptance, gratitude and appreciation have brought me joy and fulfilment.”

Rasheed Ogunlaru

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“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
Marcus Aurelius
In next week’s post, I will write about Gratitude.
In two weeks’ time, Part 2 of this Disappointment post will be published, looking at disappointment in psychotherapy.
Thank you for visiting waysofthinking.co.uk 🙏

“Tears are words that need to be written.” (Coelho) 7 More Ways Writing Can Be Therapeutic for You.

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Vermeer. A Lady Writing. Image Flickr:Gandalf’s Gallery.

Hw can writing be helpful to us psychologically? What can it give us?

Below are 7 ways writing can be therapeutic for us.

1. Writing Gives a Sense of Purpose

Writing can give meaning to our lives; it can sometimes take us over take over, mostly in a good way. Often writers become some engrossed that for a while they forget to eat; they develop a feeling that their craft gives them a raison d’être, a deep aspiration and ambition in life.

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not trueJohn Steinbeck

Furthermore, having a sense of purpose in itself can improve our wellbeing. (Andrea Bonior.)

Writing offers us a sense of who we are; it is also a kind of evidence that we are, or have been, a part of this vast universe:

“I have written, therefore I must have existed.”

Joyce Carol Oates. (Quoted in Bolton)

2. Involves Creativity

Research has indicated that being creative can benefit our health:

Creativity can also help lower stress and anxiety, enhance resilience and contribute to a sense of playfulness and curiosity. Engaging in creative activities and art-based therapies has also been linked to improved physical and mental health.

Carolyn Gregoire.

Creativity involves a taking of risks, a thinking outside the box, a stretching of accepted boundaries of thought and theory.

We can ‘play’ with ideas, develop new and innovative ways of thinking and give ourselves the opportunity to be different and unconventional.

If we allow ourselves space and time, we may surprise ourselves with the  groundbreaking ideas we can create :

“I urge you: don’t cut short these thought-trains of yours. Follow them through to their end. Your thoughts and your feelings. Follow them through and you will grow with them.”

J.M. Coetzee, Slow Man

3. Makes it Real.

Writing concretises and externalises our thoughts and words. They become more real as a result.

Our ideas might feel abstract, impressionistic until they have been written down. We may then edit, write and rewrite, of course.

Writing is a way of organising our thoughts; through this process we transform the esoteric into something physical and material.

4. Writing As Therapy .

Writing is a way of expressing yourself, your real self. If done freely and intuitively, this process can be healing and therapeutic.

It can also be highly creative, releasing aspects previously hidden in our unconscious mind.

Research indicates that writing about emotional issues can be releasing, cathartic and health-giving. (Pennebaker,Wapner, Grant)

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”
William Wordsworth

“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”
Graham Greene

Gillie Bolton’s book (below) is a thorough and highly readable study of how writing can be therapeutically beneficial in so many settings.

This is a practical, sensitive and informative book on the subject.

 

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5. Helps Develop Clarity.

Clarification of your thoughts and feelings is one of the benefits of writing….. it really does help us think and organise our ideas.

Simply by committing what we are thinking to paper or screen, we create something that will help us to, quite literally, see what our thoughts are.

As E.M. Forster famously said “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?”

6. Expands Your Knowledge

Writing increases our intellectual as well as emotional development. We learn not only more about ourself but also about ourself and the world.

As we write, we discover, research, follow others’ leads, find quotations and generally acquire new thoughts and ideas. Within our work and that of others, is a whole galaxy of wisdom.

“The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.”
William H. Gass

7. Writing Structures Your Day.

The routine that develops around writing, whatever that routine may be, is one that gives shape and purpose to many people’s day. We can learn from the way other writers do this.

It is easy to procrastinate as a writer, to surf the internet under the pretence of research, to have another cup of coffee before starting, to make that phone call, read that newspaper.

Having a fairly well established routine, whatever its structure might be, is important to many writers:

“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.”

Doris Lessing.

Quoted in Norregaard.

In his fascinating book ‘Daily Rituals- How great Minds make Time, Find Inspiration, and Get to Work’, Mason Currey explores the daily routines of famous poets and writers such as Auden, Austen and Hemingway.

Who can unravel the essence, the stamp of artistic temperament! Who can grasp the deep, instinctual fusion of discipline and dissipation on which it rests!

Thomas Mann, Death in Venice.

Quoted in Currey.

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And finally:

“There are three secrets to writing a novel. Unfortunately nobody knows what they are.”

W. Somerset Maugham

 

7 Ways that Writing Can Help You. (With Special Quotes from Well-Known Writers.) Part 1.

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What is your writing genre?….. Whatever it is, you will inevitably be expressing within it a part of yourself.

Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, academic writing, stream of consciousness, blogging or journal-keeping, the personal you will be very much reflected in what is committed to paper or screen.

Maybe your identity will be expressed symbolically, through describing scenarios and theories that are somehow pertinent to you as a person.

“All our writing is influenced by our life histories. Each word we write
represents an encounter, possibly a struggle, between our multiple
past experience and the demands of a new context.
Writing is not some neutral activity which we just learn like a physical skill, but it implicates every fibre of the writer’s multifaceted being.”

 

Roz Ivanic.

 

Given that writing is such an individual endeavour, it can become very beneficial to us. Below are some of the ways  in which writing can benefit us.

(You may think of many more. Do add a comment if so.)

1. Survival.

Many people feel that writing is essential to their very existence. Without it, they would fade away and die. Why is this? How does writing enable people to live? Perhaps you will discover some answers to this in the points that follow.

“Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.”
Rainer Maria Rilke

“To survive, you must tell stories.”

-Umberto Eco.

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2. Telling Your Story.

Writing our story and sharing it with others is a way of communicating, of connecting, making contact. This in itself can combat feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Explaining our thoughts and feelings to another, our ideas, perspectives and world-view, provides a way of reaching out, involving others in our own life.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

― Maya Angelou

Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things – thoughts, ideas, opinions. -Paulo Coelho

In utter loneliness a writer tries to explain the inexplicableJohn Steinbeck

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3.  Entering a new and different world.

Writing can provide us with a kind of escape. Comforting, self-soothing, it often means we lose ourselves in a world of our own creation, which can become anything we want.

Again, it is not important what kind of writing we do. We can create whatever we wish, in order to fulfil our writing needs.

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.”— Anne Frank

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Anne Frank Writing. (Wikimedia Commons.)
‘Writing is the supreme solace.”
-W. Somerset Maugham.
4. Remembering, Re-experiencing and Memorialising.
It is part of the human condition to want to reminisce, to remember, to compare then and now and to learn from the past. One of the ways to do this is to write. Writing

preserves the past, indicates and measures change.

Often, I look back at my own writing and think “Did I write that?” The person who wrote it seems to be different from myself now and some of the details would have been forgotten had I not written them down.

Past written work indicates changes in viewpoint and attitude and shows how we have matured and altered over the years.

 

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

–Anaïs Nin

“Write what should not be forgotten.”

Isabel Allende

5. Gaining Personal Power

Writing is often a way of stating  “This is me, this is how I think and what I believe.” It is a self-affirmation, a confirmation of who we are. Such an achievement should not be underestimated.

This process can also boost confidence, especially when it is obvious that our writing has had an impact on others.

“A word after a word after a word is power.”

–Margaret Atwood

6. Self Knowledge.

The writing process enables us to discover more about ourselves. Along the way, it will become apparent that we are revealing aspects of our inner world through what we produce on paper or screen.

“What The Subconscious is to every other man, in its creative aspect becomes, for writers, The Muse.”

-Ray Bradbury

 

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The Kiss of the Muse. Félix Nicolas Frillié. Wikimedia Commons

Bradbury’s idea about the unconscious as our muse is very apt; when we wonder where inspiration comes from, we can be sure it has emerged from our unknown inner selves. Writing helps us discover this.

Some people find that they cannot think without writing things down; this helps them in find out what is really going on in their mind. It is as if writing comes from somewhere deep inside, from a gut- level, and sometimes we might feel surprised at what emerges from our unconscious self.

“I write to discover what I know.”–Flannery O’Connor

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”  – Virginia Woolf

7. Expression of Pain
Many people find it a little easier to write down difficult thoughts feelings than to express these verbally. Somehow, the writing experience feels more controlled than speaking; there is the boundary of the paper or PC screen to ‘contain’ such thoughts. The spoken word floats into the air, wears something written is held tighter to the self.
There also may be a greater feeling of privacy than there is when verbalising and perhaps a sense of ownership. A sort of copyright of feelings.

“Tears are words that need to be written.”
–Paulo Coelho

“Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.”
Franz Kafka

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleedErnest Hermingway

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This post continues next week. Don’t forget to follow my blog and to check it out next Tuesday: 7 More Ways that Writing May Benefit you.

 

Crying : Facts and Myths. A Psychotherapist’s View.

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Picasso. Weeping Woman. Image: Nicho Design. Flickr.

“A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”

(Ecclesiastes 3:4).

What do you associate with tears?

Are they a relief of stress and tension, a sign of genuine emotion, an expression of  joy and happiness, or of grief, frustration or anger?

Or could they be all of the above?

Are they a waste of time? Perhaps sometimes you may feel they are a hindrance. Tears and crying can have so many different meanings to different people.

“Real Men -and Big Boys -Don’t Cry.”

Real men, we have been told, don’t eat quiche. And they certainly don’t cry. Or do they? Is it a myth or a fact that real men do not shed tears? (What is a ‘real man’ anyway? Any thoughts? Comment below if you have.)

Why crying is important

Actually they do eat quiche and they do cry. (Maybe not at the same time.) Yet from childhood, many men have developed a socialised response of hiding their tears.

As a psychotherapist, I have found that many men in the early stages of therapy feared that they would be judged or mocked for their tears. Frequently, in a caring and non-judgemental atmosphere, these men could reveal that, beneath the macho image, there was an ocean of tears that had been restrained for years.

Sometimes, men might express the emotion behind tears in angry outbursts, whereas women are given more permission socially to cry when they feel upset.

“People cry, not because they are weak. It is because they’ve been strong for too long.”

Johnny Depp

Hopefully, this holding back of tears is changing for men. Reflected in literature and the media, men’s tears are becoming more acceptable:

“And tears came before he could stop them, boiling hot then instantly freezing on his face, and what was the point in wiping them off? Or pretending? He let them fall.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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Allowing tears to flow is much healthier for both body and mind than repressing them. Withholding such expressions of emotions can result in the development of somatic symptoms. Some physiological effects of crying involve the release of endorphins and oxytocin, which makes people feel better. 

The energy from controlled tears has to go somewhere, and if it is stopped it will emerge in another, less healthy way:

The sorrow which has no vent in tears may make other organs weep.  ~Henry Maudsley

Tearless grief bleeds inwardly.  ~Christian Nevell Bovee

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Stop Crying!!

To a child or adult, the injunction to stop crying can be devastating. It reveals an absence of empathy and a condemnation of their emotional selves. Why do people try to stop others from crying?

We stop other people from crying because we cannot stand the sounds and movements of their bodies. It threatens our own rigidity. It induces similar feelings in ourselves which we dare not express and it evokes a resonance in our own bodies which we resist.”
Alexander Lowen, The Voice of the Body

Such dictates teach people to hide tears, to be ashamed of them, to be falsely ‘strong.’ In fact, it is not strong to withhold your tears, whatever one’s age or gender identity.

They are a way of expressing and communicating something very important. Crying in an empathic setting is especially healing:

“Tears are the noble language of eyes, and when true love of words is destitute. The eye by tears speak, while the tongue is mute.”
Robert Herrick

Crying often deepens a friendship; it shows trust and need.

However, sometimes people feel they are crying for too long or they are unable to stop crying. If this is a concern, they may need to see their GP, as it may be that they are suffering from depression.

Crocodile tears: Tears to manipulate.

Crocodiles, long ago, were believed to shed tears in order to lure their prey, or to weep for their victims after they had eaten them. Whilst they do have tear ducts, their tears have no emotional meaning behind them.

In Othello, Shakespeare showed the protagonist striking his wife, Desdemona. Othello saw her resulting tears as insincere, as he wrongly thought she was sleeping with Cassio:

“    Oh, devil, devil!
If that the earth could teem with woman’s tears,
Each drop she falls would prove a crocodile.
Out of my sight!”

William Shakespeare

Regarding women’s tears as manipulative is unfair and chauvinistic; similarly, women who cry may sometimes be regarded as weak, especially in a public or work setting. This unfairness holds true especially in male-dominated fields.

‘Corporate culture is one that’s still very much male-dominated, and many women, and men, believe that women need to act like men—and yet be more likeable than a man—in order to succeed. This includes not displaying signs of any “weakness,” or even “feminine emotions,” and not making other people uncomfortable. The act of crying can be perceived as all three.’

Peggy Drexler.

Tears may indeed be used disingenuously to manipulate others. But perhaps there is sometimes also a need behind the manipulation; the tears are still expressing the wish for understanding.

In a macabre aside, an extreme version of crocodile tears may be seen in the way that some hardened murderers have teardrops tattooed under the outer corner of their eye. These often represent the number of killings they have carried out.

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Freshly tattooed teardrops signifies the number of killings by a young member of the 18th Street Gang in Los Angeles.J. Ross Baughman

This is cruel, mocking the genuine tears of grief and loss. It is a perverse badge of honour.

What emotions may make us shed tears?

Some people cry when they are overwhelmed with happiness, or moved by something beautiful:

“Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears.”
Edgar Allan Poe

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Washington Irving.

Do you have any thoughts to add? Please do make a comment below.

 

Why We Must Live For Today and The Best Ways to Achieve This.

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“Life is but a day;
A fragile dew-drop on its perilous way
From a tree’s summit.”
John Keats

“No permanence is ours; we are a wave
That flows to fit whatever form it finds”
Hermann Hesse

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“And so the spring buds burst, and so I gaze,
And so the blossoms fall, and so my days …”
Onitsura

 

 

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Life is short, transient, even for those who might live for a hundred years. That is still a drop in the ocean of time. The Buddhist concept of Impermanence tells us that nothing endures forever, everything passes.

This is reassuring when times are difficult. During good times, although we know that these will not last, we are also aware that at some point, they will probably return.

The ephemeral nature of life means that there are losses, as well as gains. It means that places and houses and holidays we have had are now just memories, that there are blank, empty spaces where some people and things should be.

Many are still there in our lives, but they have changed, they are in flux, the people and the places that surround us. They are part of the circle of life.

We may wish  that things would stay the same. We may desire a life of constancy and consistency, yet this is a fantasy, a dream that we will never attain. Accepting this is hard.

Twenty-first century society often offers us beguiling ways round the concept of change. A promise of youth recaptured. A turning back of the clock. We actually do not have to grow old! We can surgically alter our faces and bodies to fit in with some contemporary concept of what youth looks like.

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Dr. Braun performs Botox Injections on a client at Vancouver Laser & Skin Care. Wikimedia Commons.

Yet, even with botox, lasers, face lifts, creams, lotions and potions, we will still grow old and we will still die. That is the one unchanging certainty in our lives.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses,
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.
― Ernest Dowson

 

Seize the Day.

Living for now and in the present moment is an important aspect of Buddhist thought. Can we enjoy our lives, knowing that they will end?

Can we appreciate even the small things, the most fleeting of moments, whilst being aware that such moments do not return? They are lost in time, as one day we ourselves will be.

Can we really learn to appreciate what we have, to feel gratitude?

“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”
Rabindranath Tagore

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Staying in the Now. Appreciating the Present Moment.

It is exactly because there is nothing permanent in our lives, including our life itself, that we really need to enjoy what we have.

While we do have life, finding joy in each day is, if this is at all possible, a powerful goal, a way to value our experience.  Perhaps we can practice deriving pleasure from small things. Can we find a moment to ‘stop and smell the roses?’  Can we pause and hear a medley of birdsong we normally might  miss, to taste and savour our food, to gaze at the face of  a sleeping child?

Equally, making the most of our own potential, developing our skills and continuing to learn at every opportunity, enable us to really benefit from what we’ve been given.

If we can grasp the idea that life is but a fleeting experience, then perhaps we will not delay or procrastinate as much.

Maybe there is less time than we think! This is not to be pessimistic, but to urge us to seize every opportunity, to live each day as if it were our last.

This is about truly experiencing the bounties that life has to offer, whenever and wherever possible:

Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent. Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.

Rumi

I’m not sure about the instruction not to grieve; I feel that grieving is important. However, Rumi’s beliefs carry him through loss with the reassurance that there will be a compensatory return one day. What do you think?

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“‘All conditioned things are impermanent’ — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering.” – The Buddha

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