Guwahati,

Feature2

Why "Talking Cure" is not "The Cure"

Psychoanalysis is a set of theories and therapeutic techniques which together form a method of treatment for mental health disorders. In a traditional psychoanalytic set up, a patient lies down on a couch and talks about his or her thoughts, including free associations, dreams and fantasies and allows the therapist to have access to their unconscious mind. The therapist on the other hand, tries to weave together these random thoughts and dreams and associations from the patient's world and tries to respond, or confront the defenses of the patient to help him or her gain insight into their pathology and problem. These sessions last for 45-50 minutes and require the patient to see the therapist 4-5 times a week. For the longest time, psychoanalysis remained the only traditional and accepted method of treatment through talking and was called 'the talking cure'. 

In my own tryst with psychoanalysis, I was initially very fascinated by it. I started off as an 'analysand' - someone who would visit a therapist regularly and allow them to have access into my subconscious mind. The idea was to gain better insight into my 'being' and 'personality' from exploring the recesses of my unconscious. It fascinated me so much that I even went ahead and studied it as a discipline, to practice it. I was convinced that I wanted to sit on the other side of the table and be an analyst. I wanted to listen to people and confront and question their desires, fantasies and thought forms and structures. So as to help them discover who they really are. But it was only during my practice, and not years back as someone undergoing psychoanalysis, that I understood that there were so many loop holes in this process. 
Talking did help people to gain insight and have understanding of their psyche. But the rationality and logic about their pathology or behavior that they would learn in their sessions, did not fully help them to apply them in their day to day life. The reason being simple: emotions are not rational. They may come anytime and leave anytime. They have their own conscious energy and in times of overwhelming emotional responses, no logic can be used. Consider a situation when you are really angry or overwhelmingly sad. As much logic and rationality you may provide yourself for that moment, it doesn't work! Also, talking cure required a person to invest so much of themselves into the process, for such a long time (sometimes 4-5 years), that it became an exhaustive and tedious process. 
Therapy is about movement. It is about empowering a person to change things within themselves that are unhelpful and negative. It is about that shift in the way a person lives his life. But the shift should not take that that long. A person doesn't have to perpetually go on taking medicines for years, or keep visiting a therapist for a decade. If that is happening, then there is a definite need to look into the process and question it.
While counseling does provide a safe space for us to talk, and allows us to confront our own emotions and thoughts while verbalizing them, it also only leaves us with the understanding of our psyche. In other words, counseling or talk therapy only helps us understand the process of our problem, our issues, our pathology. And 'understanding' is not enough. I may 'understand' how my anger issues stem from having an abusive father, or I may 'understand' that I attract people in my life who make me feel inferior because I have self-worth issues, but that doesn't help solve my problem of anger or low self-worth.
Emotions have energy. That's why I call them E-motion: energy in motion. And every action that emerges out of our emotions will also have energy. If someone comes to me and tells me "I want to quit smoking from today," my simple solution ideally should be: "Okay, don't smoke from today onwards. Simple! Just don't go to the shop. Don't buy a packet of cigarette. Don't put it in your mouth. And your problem is solved." But that will never solve my client's concern. Because what I am providing my client is a simple understanding of his issues and rationalizing it as any other activity. And that's what talk therapy does to us. It provides us a logical model and a rational structure of the world we live in, and in which our actions are based. What talk therapy forgets is, "there is energy in action. And to destroy those negative actions, and negative traits, you have to deal with the energy behind it and destroy it."
This is where I find alternative and holistic ways of approaching psychotherapy much more rewarding. When I made a switch from pure talk therapy to more integrated forms of approaching a case, I realized that the mind is not separate from the body and both are not separate from the spirit. So, why should the 'spirit' be missing from a process of self development and self growth? It was the spirit that was missing from my traditional practice and the element of spirituality. And once I understood that, I could include those spiritual processes to affect the energy of a negative action and behavior. 
To work with energy, one has to first of all acknowledge that the world is about energy. That we are energetic beings in a physical body and everything about our existence is about energy. In traditional therapeutic space, probably we don't look at our problems at the energetic level and hence we don't achieve the results that we expect. Because one can definitely rationalize a problem, but one can never rationalize the energy behind that problem. In my next column I will talk about these energetic processes and ways to heal. But for today, it is important for us to understand and realize that we have moved way beyond just talking. Now is the time for some blood and guts work!
(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.)