The Difficulty of Working with Things We Cannot See

Be it thoughts, feelings, ideas, notions or even ghosts or spirits, the only reason it's difficult to 'work' with them is because they cannot be seen. And they cannot be seen purely because they don't have a body. By work, here I mean, one cannot communicate with them, put them in a certain space, cannot give them a structure or resolve them when they 'feel' overwhelming. And mind you, they 'feel' overwhelming. 

The fact that they are really overwhelming cannot be proved because they don't have a proper size and shape. Thoughts, feelings, ideas and belief system do not have a physical body, or a tangible self - therefore it becomes most difficult to deal with them. Say in the case of a tumor in the stomach, or a stone in the gall bladder, the surgeon meticulously removes the tumor (or the stone). And once the foreign, disturbing element is removed, the patient is relieved with the knowledge that the foreign element is no longer there. How does one know that's true? That's because a tumor or a stone has a physical body, one can see it and knows that it exists in real. 
In depression, anxiety, phobic disorders, etc, one is never aware about the nature, the size, shape or the body of the feelings. They do not have a real physical body and one doesn't know how they look like. Even if one has taken medication, and one is ensured that these feelings will not return, one cannot fully rely if they are totally gone or not. It's not like the removal of a tumor or a stone. There you can be sure, but here, how can you be sure that it's no longer in your system? Therefore, there are several relapses in such cases. And the lack of interventions makes the dealing of these problems all the more difficult. With the evolution of psychotherapeutic measures, there is hence an increasing need to make it intervention based, and not just talking about it in the Freudian free associative way. In one of my previous columns, I had spoken about why talking cure is not the actual cure. This is what I meant. Talking does provide relief, but it does not provide us with interventions that can be used and made the patient sure of the absolute elimination of the problem. 
In the newer forms of psychotherapeutic approaches, like gestalt therapy, regression therapy, inner child integration work and neurolinguistic programming, we rely a lot on interventions and procedures, more than just free talking. The age of counseling as a free talking process of resolving one's emotional issues is sadly outdated. A need for a more clinical, structure based approach to working with mental and emotional health issues is what is required. More so when drugs and medication seem to drive our daily life and an entire pharmaceutical industry tells us how to live and how not to live. 
So much so that some of us have even forgotten how it is live without medication. Or can a life without medication be a possibility? Because we are unwilling to believe in the natural ability of the body and the mind to heal itself. Since we do not know the procedures, we cannot ever fathom that a panic attack, a long spell of debilitating depression or even a decade year old physical pain can go away without medication. But the truth is, it can. As a medical doctor, while I advocate the necessity of drugs and medications in any kind of treatment, I also condemn the belief that so much can be achieved even without it. Again, it's the idea that if something cannot be seen, it can't be considered true. So if I tell you that in psychotherapeutic procedures, the only tool we use is words, you may question me, "But how can words alone heal? Wouldn't that be placebo? What is the guarantee that the symptoms will not return? Don't you think a tablet would do better, since then there is something in place to take care of the problem?"
And that's where the problem begins. And with that begins the challenge to practice something like psychotherapy because while we grew up in the world of pharmacy and drugs as our savior, we have lost touch with our authentic and original healing abilities. I'll give you one technique here. Try working with it before throwing yourself at the medicine cabinet to fetch a pill! 
Next time, when you are faced with anxiety, fear, sadness or depression, try closing your eyes and breathe into the feeling. Identify for yourself - what 'feeling' is this? To put it loosely, there are only four kinds of basic feelings: sad, bad (fear), mad (anger), glad. Guilt and shame can be considered complex feelings. So, identify the feeling that's troubling you. Most of the time, we are completely unaware that 'what is the feeling in our system that's troubling us.' Identifying them gives us some sense of familiarity. Familiarity allows us to deal with things. 
Secondly, ask yourself, where in the body are you feeling this 'feeling?' We never acknowledge that feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety or guilt could be felt in the body. We always keep telling ourself that 'all these feelings are in the mind.' But where is the mind? The mind is in the body! So ask yourself: where in the body am I feeling it -Is the chest, is the hands, is it the shoulders or the back? This will tell you that you are only feeling it in a part of your body, not in the whole of it. Hence, it can never ever be overwhelming. 
Thirdly, ask yourself: Is this feeling mine? Or does this belong to someone else? Most of what we feel is not even ours to begin with. These are mostly feelings running in our system as voices of others - maybe our parents, maybe our teachers, maybe our spouses, or anyone. What we need to become aware of is, do we need to carry something that does not belong to us. If they are not ours, can they leave. 
(Dr. Gaurav Deka is a Delhi based medical doctor and psychotherapist. His work is based mostly on the transpersonal model of the mind which includes ideas and processes like Past Life Regression, Inner Child Integration and Holistic Healing. He can be reached at