My Psychotherapy

More than ten years ago I went through a process of psychotherapy which, although very painful, was extremely successful. When I tell my friends about this, they are interested in knowing what can be gained through psychotherapy, so here’s my story.

I was living in Princeton, NJ, and I was very tired all the time. My primary care doctor told me that I was depressed and needed to do psychotherapy. A friend of mine recommended Dr. Ella Friedman. During my first visit Ella told me that I block my negative emotions. I protested. All my life I truly tried to be honest with myself. She insisted. I had nothing to lose because I had to solve the problem of my constant exhaustion and I had no other potential solutions. Besides, I liked her very much. So I decided to play along and started my search looking for negative emotions.

For some time I tried to convince Ella that if my best friend broke my favorite mug I wouldn’t get angry with her. Ella tried to convince me otherwise. She pushed me back in time to the source of my beliefs and feelings. After several months of therapy, I discovered that I had a strong underlying belief that for my mother to love me, I must be a good girl who is always fair. Since my friend who broke the mug didn’t do it on purpose, I wasn’t allowed to be angry with her. I repressed all my angry feelings.

It took a lot of time for Dr. Friedman to rewire me and persuade me that my negative emotions do not mean that I am a bad girl. My actions define my goodness, not my emotions. I resisted. She had already convinced me that I might have negative emotions, but I didn’t want to look at them. The power forcing me to block my emotions was the threat that my mother would withdraw her love if I wasn’t a good girl. Dr. Friedman converted me. I started to believe her and continued more vigorously searching for my hidden emotions. Finally one day I collapsed in the shower. I actually felt my blocked emotions flooding me.

Negative emotions protect us. If someone treats you badly you need to be able to recognize it and get away from the danger. Because I didn’t see my emotions I stayed in situations, like toxic relationships, that caused me great pain, without realizing it.

My psychotherapy didn’t stop then. We started working on how to understand my emotions and how to process them. Now when someone is talking to me, I listen not only with my ears, but also with my gut. Suppose someone tells me, “I am so glad to see you,” but I feel a strange tightness in my stomach. I start wondering what the tightness is about, and usually can figure it out. For the first time I was able to hear my gut and it was more illuminating than what I was hearing with my ears. All my life I processed information as text. Now the sentence “I am so glad to see you” has many different meanings.

The therapy changed my life. It feels as if I added a new sense to my palette  of senses. I feel as if I was color blind for many years and at last I can see every color. Now that I’ve learned to recognize my pain, I can do something about it. I am so much happier today than I ever was before. While my friends may not have consciously recognized the big change in me, they have stopped calling me clueless and now often come to me for advice.

Did this solve my problem of tiredness? When Ella Friedman told me that I was no longer depressed, I still felt tired. I started investigating it further. It turns out that the depression was a result of the tiredness, not the other way around. It seems that I have a sleeping disorder and an iron problem.

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4 Comments

  1. Jerry:

    palate –> palette

  2. Tanya Khovanova:

    Jerry,

    Thanks, I fixed it.

  3. Mike TS:

    Hi Tanya, just stumbled upon your blog, very interesting. I came a very long way to who I am now. It was a very painful road but I am very different person now (although remembering and accepting who I was 10, 20 or 30 years ago) and I think I may understand your psychotherapy story a bit. One of the milestones for me was to change my self-image and start accepting all feelings and emotions I experience (no matter if good or bad). I couldn’t really change my self-image (actually I didn’t know that anything was wrong with it) until I stumbled
    on Paul McKenna book (“I can make you smarter”). I saw the book in a store and didn’t like neither the title nor the photo on the cover. It looked to me like another ‘be rich in 10 days’ dodgy preacher bullshit. I don’t know why I bought it but I’m really happy I did. It really did change my life because instead of telling me ‘be nice to yourself’ it showed me simple visualization techniques that really started re-programming my unconscious patterns, I like to call them brain BIOS, something that is deep down in the lower level, very close to the hardware (exactly like BIOS in PC computers which is many levels below user space application). Probably the most important lesson from those books is that imagination is more powerful than will. You can tell somebody ‘please stop worrying’, ‘accept yourself’, ‘stop punishing yourself’ or ‘love yourself’ but will it work? Usually it doesn’t work because it’s rather hard to force yourself to be good to self just by willpower. Even if we understand something then it doesn’t mean it’s easy to change habits. Visualization on the other hand is very powerful indeed. If you for example imagine your nasty, punishing internal voice to flow out of your head, down the arm, settling in your thumb and then you’ll see and hear thumb moving (you actually move the thumb and imagine hearing the sound) and telling all those nasty things we tell to ourselves with a Mickey Mouse voice, then we’re sending a message to our unconscious mind that judging voice isn’t very serious anymore. It starts changing how we talk and treat ourselves. (this example is takien from his book). This is like exercising on the gym but instead of working on the biceps you work on the hidden mind programs (as you said, those programs very often are created in our childhood and work invisibly through our adult life). Anyway, take a look at his books, it may be really helpful. There are also lots of videos on Youtube, if he sounds dodgy then get pass this feeling and give it a go anyway. He (and his techniques) can be really helpful indeed. BTW, I don’t earn money advertising his books, they just changed my life that’s all :), all the best, Mike

  4. Fernando Preas:

    Sleep disorders can also cause some more serious health problems in the future. ..

    Look into our very own blog site too
    http://www.foodsupplementdigest.com/low-vitamin-d-symptoms/

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