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Psychotherapy Blog

Esther Perel

The Secret to desire in a long term relationship

Whenever I ask people, “What do you think of when you hear the word love?” I am met with countless variations on the same theme: warmth, intimacy, kindness, tenderness, support, care, safety, protection, calm, trust. The answers are quite different when I ask about desire: hardness, heat, power, exciment, a sense of being alive, feeling sexy, hungry, sweaty, tingly, full, energized, driven, abandon, free — and these are the attributes missing from the most loving and closest of relationships. Like fire, desire needs air. Many couples fail to leave each other enough air, confusing intimacy with fusion; this is a bad omen for sex.READ MORE

Mindfulness

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the gentle effort to be continuously present with experience. But I like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness:

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;

On purpose,in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

Kabat-Zinn, if you haven’t heard of him, is a famous teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

Paying attention “on purpose”
First of all, mindfulness involves paying attention “on purpose”. Mindfulness involves a conscious direction of our awareness. We sometimes (me included) talk about “mindfulness” and “awareness” as if they were interchangeable terms, but that’s not a good habit to get into. I may be aware I’m irritable, but that wouldn’t mean I was being mindful of my irritability. In order to be mindful I have to be purposefully aware of myself, not just vaguely and habitually aware. Knowing that you are eating is not the same as eating mindfully.
Let’s take that example of eating and look at it a bit further. When we are purposefully aware of eating, we are consciously being aware of the process of eating. We’re deliberately noticing the sensations and our responses to those sensations. We’re noticing the mind wandering, and when it does wander we purposefully bring our attention back.

When we’re eating unmindfully we may in theory be aware of what we’re doing, but we’re probably thinking about a hundred and one other things at the same time, and we may also be watching TV, talking, or reading — or even all three! So a very small part of our awareness is absorbed with eating, and we may be only barely aware of the physical sensations and even less aware of our thoughts and emotions.

Because we’re only dimly aware of our thoughts, they wander in an unrestricted way. There’s no conscious attempt to bring our attention back to our eating. There’s no purposefulness.

This purposefulness is a very important part of mindfulness. Having the purpose of staying with our experience, whether that’s the breath, or a particular emotion, or something as simple as eating, means that we are actively shaping the mind.READ MORE

Marwencol

Marwencol is a 2010 American documentary film that explores the life and work of artist and photographer Mark Hogancamp. It is the debut feature of director-editor Jeff Malmberg.On April 8, 2000, Mark Hogancamp was attacked outside of a bar by five men who beat him nearly to death. After nine days in a coma and forty days in the hospital, Mark was discharged with brain damage that left him little memory of his previous life. Unable to afford therapy, Mark creates his own by building a 1/6-scale World War II-era Belgian town in his yard and populating it with dolls representing himself, his friends, and even his attackers. He calls that town “Marwencol,” a portmanteau of the names “Mark,” “Wendy” and “Colleen.” He rehabilitates his physical wounds by manipulating the small dolls and props — and his mental ones by having the figures act out various battles and stories.

When Mark begins documenting his miniature dramas with his camera, his photos are discovered and published by Esopus magazine[2] and even shown in a New York art gallery. But having the label of “art” applied to his intensely personal work forces Mark to make a choice between the safety of his fictional town and the real world he’s avoided since his attack.READ MORE

Mentalization

Mentalizing is crucial to our well-being in several respects. First, mentalizing implicitly and explicitly is the basis of self-awareness and a sense of identity. Importantly, when we mentalize, we have a feeling of self-agency, being in control of our own behavior. Thus mentalizing provides us with a spontaneous sense of ownership and responsibility for our actions and our choices, rather than feeling that our behavior just “happens.”

You are mentalizing when you’re aware of what’s going on in your mind or someone else’s. You’re mentalizing when you puzzle, “Why did I do that?” or wonder, “Did I hurt her feelings when I said that?” Your ability to mentalize enables you to make sense of behavior. You hear a car door slam shut and it draws your attention. Then you see the man who slammed the car door reaching into his pockets and coming up empty handed. He starts to get agitated, tries unsuccessfully to open the door, looks through the car window toward the ignition, and starts cussing. All this behavior would be bewildering if you didn’t automatically infer that he’s frustrated because he locked his keys in the car.

Mentalizing, you automatically interpret behavior as based on mental states, such as desires, beliefs, and feelings. The man wanted to be able to drive his car, believed that he’d have a hard time getting back into it, and felt frustrated—perhaps also helpless. Sometimes you need to mentalize to interpret your own behavior: “How could I have been so gullible as to loan him money when I knew full well that he’s totally undependable?” Often you need to mentalize to understand your emotional reactions: “Why am I this upset about her not calling me back right away? Why am I so sensitive right now? I’ve been feeling like a lot of people have been letting me down lately…”READ MORE

Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart is a spiritual teacher and author who was born in Germany and educated at the Universities of London and Cambridge. At the age of 29, a profound inner transformation radically changed the course of his life. The next few years were devoted to understanding, integrating and deepening that transformation, which marked the beginning of an intense inward journey. Later, he began to work in London with individuals and small groups as a counselor and spiritual teacher. Since 1995 he has lived in Vancouver, Canada. Eckhart Tolle is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Power of Now (translated into 33 languages) and the highly acclaimed follow-up A New Earth, which are widely regarded as two of the most influential spiritual books of our time.READ MORE

Working with the unconscious

Jungian Analyst Marion Woodman describes her approach to therapy, which she says, comes from the unconscious. She goes on to define and explain the unconscious and how it starts with a dream. The dream is a picture of the unconscious and what you do through the day is mirrored in the dream at night. (Originally aired May 1997)

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Sandtray Therapy

       Sandtray Therapy, more commonly called Sandplay Therapy, is a form of therapy that was first developed by Dr. Margaret Lowenfield, a child psychiatrist in London who was looking for a way to help children express the “inexpressible”. She recalled reading the writings of H. G. Wells, in which he described his observations of his two sons playing with miniature figures on the floor and had realized that they were using the toys to work out their problems with each other and other members in the family. She obtained several miniatures and put them on shelves in her office. The first child to see them, took several of the miniatures, brought them to the sandbox and began playing with them in the sand. She realized that using the figures in the sand was helpful to the child and she made this her standard practice in working with children. This became known as the World Technique.READ MORE

The Active Dreamlife

Fishing for a Dream
The fish is an age old symbol and one which frequently appears within dreams. Within the dream the fish tends to represent that which is formed yet remains unconscious. To catch a fish is to pull content from out of the waters of the unconscious onto the dry land of one’s conscious mind. The fish and fishing can also represent the process of dreaming and dream analysis itself.
The golden fish of this Dream Analysis site highlights the value and importance of the dream.
Jung’s Rediscovery of the Dream
What is a Dream?
We all dream. Every night – as we dim the light of consciousness – we enter the realm of the dream. In this dream state our imagination runs free with little or no interference from our conscious mind. In the morning, when we wake and return to consciousness, we may bring with us a recollection of the wanderings of our imagination – we remember the dream.
To dream is natural, it is a universal experience. All people of all cultures enter into this dream state when they sleep. As sleep research has shown even animals dream. How we regard the dream, however, varies from culture to culture and from person to person.READ MORE

Carl Jung – The Wisdom of The Dream

This film is one of a three-part series of films produced by PBS, on the life and works of the great thinker and psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. Born on July 26, 1875, in Switzerland, Jung became interested in psychiatry during his medical studies. He saw that the minds of mentally deranged persons had similar contents, much of which he recognized from his own interior life, described in his autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections. His lifelong quest to understand the workings of the psyche led him to develop the analytical method of psychiatry. He proceeded by looking at the role in his patients’ lives of what he termed the personal and collective unconscious, as expressed through dreams, myths, and outer events.

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