Psychotherapy is not simply about meeting with the psychologist and telling him out loud about the frustrations that we have been carrying over the last days or weeks; nor is it going to informative sessions in which as patients we internalize theoretical knowledge about what happens to us and we let go of false beliefs.
Although these two phenomena are present to a greater or lesser extent in any psychotherapy process, it goes far beyond these kinds of activities. It is not based simply on the expression and memorization of ideas, but is as much or more related to the coming and going of emotions than to the transmission of knowledge that can be captured in phrases and words.
In other words, emotional management, what takes place in the dynamism of our mind, is a key aspect in psychological therapy, and this cannot be covered by language or by what we can save in writing. Progressing through visits to the psychologist means mastering the practice of these kinds of living and changing processes based on the modulation and transformation of emotions in the here and now.
Why is emotional regulation essential in psychological therapy?
Do people addicted to tobacco know that smoking is bad? Currently, the answer in the vast majority of cases is yes: every year large amounts of money are invested in ensuring that everyone knows about the existence of the harmful effects of this product, at least in Western countries. However, that does not mean that thousands of people, perfectly aware that smoking damages their health, try to stop using tobacco and do not feel capable.
This fact reflects well what takes place in a psychotherapy process: it is not so much about learning the theory, but about mastering the practice of gaining control and autonomy in the way we live life, think and interact with others. In the same way that reading a self-help book will probably not be enough to overcome a psychopathology, it is necessary to expose ourselves to a context in which we can train new and more adaptive ways of living life.
And psychotherapy sessions are that context: a place where mental health and psychological well-being professionals give us support, study our particular case and offer us tailor-made solutions. Solutions that involve increasing our knowledge about what happens to us, but also being able to perform exercises that allow us to learn to better manage our emotions and feelings, among other things. Not everything is based on talking, reading or listening to advice; Most of the change comes through personal transformations based on practice, a practice supported by the counseling and guidelines of the psychotherapist, and the material and psychological tools that it offers us.
The main areas of emotion management in a therapeutic process
These are the most important aspects in which patients improve their management of emotions during the unfolding phases of psychotherapy.
1. The relationship with our own perception of the problem
The process of self-knowledge regarding the problem that has led us to seek professional help is key, and in fact, many times part of what makes us suffer lies there. Psychologists propose a whole series of exercises that help advance on this front; for example, many times we give a series of instructions and guidelines to be applied on a day-to-day basis to record certain types of thoughts that come to mind, in order to learn patterns of appearance of ideas, feelings, etc.
This makes it possible to question certain erroneous beliefs about ourselves, to stop in their tracks unpleasant or dysfunctional feelings that often lead us to perform inappropriate behaviors, etc. In this way, we stop feeding the emotional processes that were keeping "alive" the set of actions and thought patterns that put us in problematic situations and that do not bring us anything good.
2. The relationship with the psychotherapist
The type of emotional bond that we establish with the person handling our case is very important ; In fact, it greatly influences the result that we are going to obtain, since if this interaction is problematic, it is most likely that we are not as open and honest as the situation requires, and that we do not fully commit to therapy.
Luckily, this is an area to which psychologists pay a lot of attention and in which we are used to intervening for mutual benefit, that is, you will have many helps to "connect" in the right way, neither from a too cold and distant treatment nor from the expectation of making a friendship.
3. The relationship with the therapy process
Knowing how to take advantage of the emotions related to therapy is something that is noticeable, among other things, in our ability to motivate ourselves and propose to reach the next goal. And of course, it reduces the risk that we will stop attending sessions prematurely.
4. The relationship with one's own thoughts and feelings
As we master the regulation of emotions, we are more capable of modulating the way in which we "move through our mind" our attention focus. That makes us focus on those aspects in which we can do something to improve and that allow us to be constructive, instead of just being anchored in pessimism.
5. The relationship with our daily environment
This area includes both what we think and feel when interacting with the environments to which we are usually exposed (our office, the stores we pass through, etc.) and with the people with whom we usually relate or could get to relate ( our partner, our parents, our bosses, etc.).
6. The relationship with our self-esteem
Finally, all the previous processes, partially overlapping each other, give rise to a balanced self-esteem, adjusted to our real capacities and that is also capable of leading us to take on new challenges, since we are aware that although we can always learn new things, we are imperfect and there is room for further progress.
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