Every day, you feel all kinds of emotions, and to get along, you don’t express them. You “let it go”. If someone annoys you, you excuse it by rationalizing their behavior. You tell yourself that they didn’t mean it “that way.” It’s no big deal.
Rationalizing Away Emotions is a Waste of Your Time and Money
Rationalizing away your emotions in “real life,” makes complete sense. You have to do it. Otherwise, you might end up in jail. Or without any friends.
In therapy, on the other hand, it’s crucial to notice how you’re feeling in the present and express that feeling to your therapist. Even if the feeling is unreasonable or irrational. Rationalizing away your emotions in therapy is counterproductive and a waste of your time and money. Check out the following patient/therapist story to find out why.
A True Story
In this scenario, the patient was not expressing his “unreasonable” wish, and he neutered the effectiveness of his therapy as a result.
In those days Reich used another technique to implement the therapy. At the beginning of each session he asked his patients to tell him all the negative thoughts they had about him. He believed that all patients had a negative transference to him as well as a positive one, and he did not trust the positive unless negative thoughts and ideas were expressed first. I found this extremely difficult to do. Having made a commitment to Reich and to the therapy, I had banished all negative thoughts from my mind. I felt I had nothing to complain about. Reich had been very generous with me, and I had no doubt about his sincerity, his integrity or the validity of his concepts. Characteristically, I was determined to make the therapy succeed, and it was not until it almost failed that I opened up my feelings to Reich.
… I went through a long stretch of several months during which I made no progress. I was seeing Reich three times a week then, but I was blocked because I couldn’t tell Reich my feelings about him. I wanted him to take a fatherly interest in me, not merely a therapeutic one, but knowing this was an unreasonable request, I couldn’t express it. Struggling inwardly with the problem, I got nowhere. Reich seemed unaware of my conflict. Try as hard as I could to let my breathing become deeper and fuller, it just didn’t work.
I had been in therapy for about a year when this impasse developed. When it seemed to go on indefinitely, Reich suggested I quit. “Lowen,” he said, “you are unable to give in to your feelings. Why don’t you give up?” His words were a sentence of doom. To give up meant the failure of all my dreams. I broke down and cried deeply. It was the first time I had sobbed since I was a child. I could no longer hold back my feelings. I told Reich what I wanted from him, and he listened sympathetically.
I do not know if Reich had intended to end the therapy or whether his suggestion that I terminate treatment was a maneuver to break through my resistance, but I had the strong impression that he meant it. In either case, his action produced the desired result. I began to move again in the therapy.
- Excerpt from Bioenergetics by Alexander Lowen, M.D.
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