Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Feeling Better vs.Getting Better

Tom Schreck, author of the Duffy Series

I started teaching a college class in psychotherapy last night.

Before we got into Freud, Skinner, Rogers et al I asked them to think about whether someone could ever make an important change in their lives without the presence of pain.

Do we ever grow without discomfort?

In the last six months I started volunteering on the Samaritans Suicide Hotline. People in pain from all over the country call just to be listened to. I get the impression some will use their current crisis and come out of it as stronger more complete people.

I'm pretty sure others won't.

Getting better is vastly different than feeling better. I believe that getting better requires you to feel pain but human tendency is to do something as quick as possible to feel better.

Do you know the most efficient and reliable way to conquer a phobia? Implosion therapy.
That means doing what you fear, a lot and often until you become desensitized.Studies show it works better than other methods.

Phobics usually choose a less threatening method.

I think a lot of therapy is focused on helping people feel better and not get better.

I believe that often most therapeutic thing that you can say to someone is "That's sucks, now deal with it."

That would take about 10 seconds to say and wouldn't do much for a private practice. Most of human problems come from our addiction to immediate gratification and though we may have poor genes or neurotransmitters stopping self defeating behavior always involves one thing.

Not doing that behavior and dealing with the discomfort of denying immediate gratification.

Does it do anyone a service to make getting better more complicated than that?

So what if you were breast fed from falsies--you're 48 and getting better is up to you? Yes, dad and dad's dad drank too much. You shouldn't, so stop.

You're a compulsive gambler. Hey, when you missed the mortgage payment that was a sign to knock it off.

Smoking is bad for you. I don't smoke and am tired of seeing gross commercials to encourage smokers to stop. How much more info do thy need?

Is depression different? Schizophrenia? I think it sucks if your predisposed to them but ultimately work and patience ( and maybe medication) are going to be the answer.

Love, warmth and support feel good and maybe they lead to you taking the suggestions of a helper. Talking feels good, especially when someone listens intently.

In my 25 years in human services I've met lots of people (on both sides of the desk) who loved to talk. Some people say you gotta let it out.

But is letting it out curative? Could it just bolster irrational ways of thinking and acting, especially if a professional is agreeing how hard you had it?

Would people get better faster if you told them to quit complaining and blaming and stop doing shit that was self-defeating?


Lisa Bork said...

It must take a lot of patience to listen to all that complaining and blaming. I guess the only one who can really help you is you.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

This was excellent, Tom! (she says, putting down the donut and picking up a banana) And this is something we all need to hear, or get smacked upside the head with, from time to time. I know I needed to read this posting this morning. Thanks!

And addictions and depression aside, it also pertains to the writing life. Don't whine about not having the time to write, folks. If you truly want to write, you'll find the time. There is no instant gratification in writing.

Brian Keaney said...

'Would people get better faster if you told them to quit complaining and blaming and stop doing shit that was self-defeating?'

No they wouldn't. Like good writing, it's just not that easy Tom.

G.M. Malliet said...

Sue Ann never sleeps, I don't think, so should we listen to her advice on finding time to write? ;-)

But seriously, in the time it takes me to complain about not having time to write, I could have written a page or two. So I guess one needs to squawk a bit...and then get on with it.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Like Yoda said, "Do, or do not. There is no try."

Not just true in writing, but in life.

Cricket McRae said...

The weird thing is that whining and blaming don't actually feel better. They do manage to drain a lot of energy and support a paradigm of painful victimhood, though. I vote for less talk therapy and more cognitive behavorial approaches.

Julia Buckley said...

I think in general it's true that people (who aren't horribly ill) need to show strength in order to show improvement.

But I also think that there are some things people can't fix themselves, no matter how much they might try.

But Sue Ann, I agree--writing is not one of those things. People can find time to write, find a way to make writing better, and even find a way to get published.