As small children we live mostly based on our feelings — not our thinking. When something scares us, we avoid it or fight it, since we are unable to judge whether it might be dangerous or something totally harmless.
If we like something, we tend to go toward it, regardless of whether it’s good or bad for us, because we can’t evaluate reality very well yet. We reflexively learn how to fit into our environment primarily based on our feelings. This is how our basic patterns of personality get laid down, patterns that tend to repeat themselves again and again throughout life, often without us even knowing it. This can present a problem because those automatic feeling-based patterns often don’t work well in adulthood.
We may find ourselves, as adults, scared of things we know shouldn’t scare us. We may find ourselves hurt by things we know shouldn’t hurt us. We also may make repeated bad decisions and wonder why we don’t learn from the experience and do things differently. If the problem is bad enough, we might decide to seek psychotherapy.
Does psychotherapy help?
It depends on what you mean by “psychotherapy,” because there is no general definition of what psychotherapy is. Many people think of psychotherapy as a way of figuring out “why we do what we do” or “why I am the way I am.” However, even if one figures out “why I do what I do,” it doesn’t do a lot to help break the pattern. Negative or destructive behaviors often continue to repeat themselves.
For psychotherapy to work it has to affect much more than how we understand ourselves. It also has to affect us on an emotional level. In order to change these patterns we developed as children, we have to experience the childhood feelings again, but this time in a safe and therapeutic setting. In other words, we need corrective emotional experiences.
At IIGP, we teach a form of therapy using corrective emotional experiences, experiences that affect feeling and not just thinking. When it works, harmless things that used to scare us no longer affect us the same way. Our decision-making improves, our quality of life is considerably better, and our relationships are enriched.