Importance of therapeutic relationship to Freud

Well-Being in Positive Psychology

I purchased and read Martin Seligman’s, “Authentic Happiness” when I was a student counsellor. I was not impressed. Yes, I was interested in Positive Psychology as a shift of interest away from the “problems” (and more medical) model that had been the emphasis of psychology since the 19th Century. Yes, I wanted to see an emphasis on the “good life” (which was also the emphasis of the earliest Greek philosophers), but what I couldn’t accept was “happiness” as a motivation in and of itself. Things, events, relationships, accomplishments and other interactions can lead to feelings of “happiness”, but looking for happiness will always be illusive, because it is not a thing in itself (it is also completely subjective). Martin has understood the flaw in this approach and has revised his theory to make “well-being”, rather than happiness, the goal of Positive Psychology.

Martin, in his book “Flourish”, says that well-being is analogous to weather. Weather is not a thing in and of itself, but is a concept (or “construct”) which includes more basic elements, such as temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, etc. Well-being is a comparable construct, in that it is composed of elements (some more subjective than others). These elements for Martin, include:

  • Positive emotion (happiness and life satisfaction are aspects)
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning and purpose
  • Accomplishment

Martin refers to this as PERMA and says, “No one element defines well-being, but each contributes to it. Some aspects of these five elements are measured subjectively by self-report, but other aspects are measured objectively.” (Source: https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/learn/wellbeing, Accessed 29 August 2018)

As I read “Flourish”, I began to imagine these elements within one’s work. This site is about the application of these elements (and psychology more generally) to work and creative endeavours.

The Song of Wandering Aengus


By William Butler Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

Source: The Wind Among the Reeds (1899)

Looking for positives

After you have been depressed awhile, the cycle of negative thoughts can make it seem like an impossible task to find joy anywhere.

Weather moods and depression
View from my window which lifted my mood

To help pull oneself out of these negative moods, different things can be effective – some go for walks (especially in nature), some listen to music, some look for creative outlets (like painting or playing a musical instrument). I was feeling a bit gloomy the other day and began to look for positive things. They really are everywhere. I saw the rainbow in the photo below from my window at home. The view helped my mood and I hope it has helped yours, too.

Find things you enjoy and even when you feel down – especially when you feel down – treat yourself. Positives are everywhere!

OM

I began meditating before my son was born, because I wanted to be relaxed for him. I was 36 and had normal stresses, but wanted to be as positive an influence as possible on our baby. I wasn’t interested in religion (I had put religion behind me more than a decade before). I have found many benefits in mediation – clearer thinking, settled mind, a deeper perspective on life generally and troubles specifically, as well as many physiological benefits.

While I spent a number of years with om mani padme hum, lately I have found “OM” alone preferred. While meditating can be on one’s breath, visualisations and other stimuli, I find the pattern of chanting helps to settle my racing mind quickly and has effects that can last days (depending on how much I listen to the chanting).

If you are anxious and need out of your head, I would recommend the following:

Modifying moods through exercise

It can be difficult to deal with the gloom at times. The worst thing to do for your moods can seem the most natural – to stay in bed and brood over the things working through your mind. One of the things that can most help with moods can seem the most difficult to do. To get out of bed and exercise can produce chemicals to help with your moods and being able to focus on the things around you, as you walk, can be incredibly therapeutic.

Exercise for depression
Walking behind our house

I went on a walk today with my son. The wind on my face, the warmth of the sun, the sound of his voice, the feeling of the gravel shifting beneath my feet. All of these things helped to ground me in a place outside of my head. We walked a path behind our home and stopped to take this photo. If you need someone to help you get outside and exercise, try sharing this page with a friend and ask them to help you get outside (and outside of your own head).

Walk, talk, take time to be with others and nature. It might seem difficult, at first, but the rewards can be significant – for you and those who love you.

Narrative Therapy

We all have “narratives” or stories that we construct about our lives. The events around us are not quite as objective as we often like to imagine. We take information, feelings, reactions, instincts and we filter events, creating our own stories of what has happened. This active construction of “reality” is understood, analysed and utilised in Narrative Therapy.

Unlike in some therapeutic approaches where the therapist is an “expert”, the Narrative therapist realises that the client is the expert in his or her own life. By working through the narratives of a client’s life – most specifically those that are problematic for current functioning – the client and therapist are able to develop “richer” narratives, which aid the individual with conflict resolution and creating a perspective of self and the world which assist in sounder mental health. In this context, the therapist is a collaborator with the client, helping construct revised meaning.

There are a number of techniques employed in Narrative Therapy, including:

  • Helping the client to “separate” from problems, seeing that they are not the same as their problems. (This externalisation process also includes “strengths” and other more positive aspects of self, so that the client can author a more preferred narrative of self.)
  • Encouraging the client to consider life events which are not dominant in current narratives (e.g. looking for exceptions).

Narrative Therapy developed in the family therapy practices of Australian Michael White and New Zealander David Epston and is still used in relationship counselling. For some practitioners, including Epston, it is common to use not only verbal narratives, but also things such as letters, documents and other supporting objects.

Inner Space – The Final Frontier

When I was a small child, I thought nothing could be better than to explore a new world. I was fascinated by science fiction – to see a new world, to explore the stars, to encounter new beings, to imagine new (and generally more noble) ways of existing. All of these things filled me with wonder and desire for things which I knew I would never experience. I have always loved sci-fi for this gift. This ability to be and imagine more.

When I entered my 40s, I had an experience which shook me to my core. I was lost – lost in my head, lost in the world. The only thing which kept me tethered to this world was a very dear four year old who called me “Daddy”. I felt adrift emotionally and the mood shifts, from grief to hostility, were almost more than I could bear. A place that I felt I knew intimately – my mind – suddenly became a strange and frightening landscape.

It was then that I realised that our greatest journeys will never be to other celestial landscapes, our bravest explorations will not be propelled by the thrust required to break orbit of our pale blue dot. Our greatest and most noble paths will not be to the stars, but will be to the infinite abyss within ourselves. To stand at the edge and look into the darkness, to be willing to stare into the darkness – such is a brave and noble act.

You will receive no ticker tape parade, no slaps on the back, no heroes’ welcome. Most will not be able to understand either your motivation or the changes which this journey has brought to you. You will be able to discuss your voyage of discovery only with kindred spirits, who have also sailed by the stars.

Family Scripts

Family scripts are a conceptualisation which can aid therapists in working with families. The idea is that families have accustomed ways of interacting with each other and these shared stories can be woven not only into the fabric of the nuclear family, but can also take place in trans-generational contexts.

Thus, various family members take upon themselves (or have thrust upon them) certain “parts” in the play that is the life of the family. An abusive father may have himself been brutalised and then treats his son in the same way, who then takes the position of his father in this script, when he becomes a father himself.

The idea is that these scripts are unspoken and family members do not consciously know that they are acting a given part in the family drama. Attempts to change the script can cause hostile reactions from other family members, who do not want someone affecting their own roles.

Part of applying family script techniques to family counselling involves the therapist helping the family members understand their roles and coming up with improved ways of understanding and relating to each other.