E J is a therapist and counsellor with Holistic London, specialising in relationships, emotional difficulties, and discovering life purpose. For information about his work, visit here.
The traditional "talk" therapy process usually involves helping the client discover what they really feel, and uncovering initiating incidents that may have caused these feelings.
Behavioural therapy takes a different perspective, and supports the client in taking specific, practical steps to shift how he/she is acting in response to current situations; by changing our behaviour, we can literally "change our mind."
In my work with clients over the past 14 years, I have found limitations with both of these approaches. Discovering one's feelings, and rooting out originating incidents, can help build a sense of clarity and perspective, and can liberate us from a morass of complicated emotions and reactions.
But does this approach truly help us shift our lives in new and positive directions? Not necessarily. I have known clients and friends who have each been "in therapy" for over a decade, who continue to battle with the same life conditions.
In my experience, the behavioural approach can shift how we engage in life very quickly, but only if we sustain the focus and motivation to maintain these new actions. Even the best habits can get lost when we are under stress. For example, most of us know how to be fit: eat healthy and exercise regularly. Yet, how many of us maintain this positive behaviour?
In my work with clients, I have started to focus on a slightly different perspective: "Expectations." What we really expect from certain situations, and from life in general, undoubtedly dictates how we feel, and how we behave.
For example, imagine that you are applying for a new job, with the unconscious expectation that you won't get it. How would this mindset make you feel about the job, and affect how you pursue it?
I believe that, while most of our expectations are unconscious, they deeply determine the development of our lives. As we expect, so it will be. And most of these expectations are grounded in broad, "archetypal" conclusions about life.
To inquire into this, I suggest that each of us takes some time to be truly honest with ourselves and explore in a journal: what do we really believe, and expect, in specific aspects of life? Once we clarify these mindsets, we can begin to work on them directly.
Here are some prompts to begin the process:
1. How do you expect men feel about you?
2. How do you expect women feel about you?
3. Do you expect the world is friendly and supportive of you?
4. Do you truly expect that you will be healthy for the rest of your life?
5. Do you expect that you will receive a lot of money for the work that you like to do?
Once you have clarified your honest expectations, you can seek to consciously change them, if desired.
If you would like assistance in transforming your "expectations", contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to work with you on this.