Broken Column by Frida Kahlo
Dedicated to my dear therapist: Ms. Şeyma Doğramacı who has guided me on my longest journey “home”!
I have always wanted to write about psychotherapy from the other angle, that of the “client”. How does it feel to be the “patient/client” in a psychotherapeutic setting with a total stranger, the psychotherapist that becomes “the” one that knows more about you than any other person in your life; that can sense more about you that you can sense about yourself: that enables you to find your path in the midst of all chaos and darkness than any other significant person in your life? What is this “unique” relationship about? A relationship between two total strangers that ends up being purely transformative for the client! How do these two total strangers “meet” in the intersubjective space? How does the client open up and reveal the truth about herself to herself in the psychotherapeutic setting? What psychological functions does the therapist fulfil for the client? Does psychotherapy really cure and how does it do so?
Walking Through the Shadows
On Our Darkest Journey “Home”
Therapy is a journey into the unknown of the unconscious. Unconscious resides in the underwater of the self; behind locked doors, inside the cellars and attics of our “homes”. It is in the darkness and the shadows of our past. It is in the forgotten memories of our childhood.
Psychotherapy is a journey that moves beyond the illusion that “we are the masters of our homes.” It is the realization that what makes us who we are had “already” happened before our conscious awareness of it. It is the realization that what I call “I” is the product of a childhood in which I had no control. “I” as a byproduct of experiences of the past, “I” as “the one” in the imagination of my parents, “I” as the inheritor of the fortunes and misfortunes of my ancestors! “I” as the byproduct of an ancestral past which I did not even belong!
Therapy in this sense in an uncanny journey home!
Psychotherapeutic Space: On the Shores of Endless Worlds**
“No one else will walk through the shadows with me!” Pablo Neruda
Psychotherapist creates both a space and a connection simultaneously that allows the client to “be”. A space in which there are no judgments and/or expectations. A connection which is neither suffocating nor demanding. It is only in this space and through this space that the client is able to have the courage to open locked doors, climb up to the attic, go down to the cellar of one’s own “home” to discover clues of one’s archaic self. Echoing on Neruda, only in this “particular” space and in this “particular” connection, the client is able to find the courage to walk through one’s shadows to discover the original feelings, “thoughts”, visions, sounds, odors of one’s home.
And, “only” in this space can the client experience a sense of openness and trust and start to reveal vulnerable parts of one’s self to herself.
Therapist is a “company” on the journey through the shadows onto the core of one’s own being: the unconscious self. Think of the analogy of diving into the underwater where there is no oxygen, and which can be dangerous for someone who has never learned to dive. Learning to dive is a process. One needs a master, education and tools to do it! Without a master, a proper education and necessary tools, diving can even be fatal. A therapist -as the “master” of underwater- trains you to dive, accompanies you on your journey to the underwater, offers you to the tools to stay in the underwater to observe what is beneath and beyond the visible. Only with the guidance and the mastery of the therapist and the safe psychotherapeutic space, the client finds the courage and develops the skills to go and explore beyond the visible/apparent.
Therapist as the Artist of Broken Things
Moving beyond the analogy of the master of underwater, I also love thinking of the analogy of kintsugi: art of broken things when I think of how therapy enables a transformative experience in the self. I think of the therapist as the artist who painstakingly looks for the broken and lost pieces of the self, explores where they really belong and how they can be “blended” with the rest of the self. It is artistic in the sense that it requires a lot of creativity on the side of the therapist as there is no “one” particular way to do it. Therapy works through suggestions. Therapist as the explorer notices hidden, suppressed and/or isolated parts of the self and brings them to the attention of the client. Suggestions are vital as they are provocations of “letting” those pieces in, on the part of the client!
Will the client be able to notice and allow suppressed or denied dimensions/parts of self in? In this sense, I think therapy is a “seduction game” for it is about creating “desire” in the client. Desire to be whole, larger and more functional than the current self; desire to move forward, desire to climb upward regardless of how painful it might be. That is leaving the archaic self behind and having the courage to shape a new and more functional self.
Metanoia: Moving from Insight to Change
Therapy is not only about insight; it is also about change. In this sense, psychotherapy is not an “intellectual exchange of ideas” about the self. It is the “experience” of the self in all of its manifestations from the most apparent to the most subtle, from the most robust to the most vulnerable. In this sense, it is a revelation. A revelation of the unconscious self!
But psychotherapy is not only focused on who we are and how we have become who we are but who we truly want to be! It is not only about finding the home within us in the symbolic sense but recreating our “own” home here and now from the ashes of the past with the insight of today.
In this sense, psychotherapy invites the client to be the artist of one’s life and move beyond being the victim. In a culture like ours which “glorifies” the victim, the task of the therapist is a challenging one. With all the secondary gains and “la belle indifference” of being the victim, few choose to move beyond it. Psychotherapist awaits the client in the future while guiding her in the present. There is a constant call for change in the direction of growth, integrity and functionality. In this sense, psychotherapy is a call for “creating one’s own light however vast the darkness.” ***
* Refers to the book of Heinz Kohut: “How does Analysis Cure?”
**Echoes the quote by Donald Winnicot of the poem “On the Seashore on Endless Worlds Children Meet” by Rabindranath Tagore
***Taken from the quote of Stanley Kubrick
Mahan Doğrusöz 2020