Robert  Tyszczak

Thoughts on counselling and therapy, and why self-help ≠ Self help.

Posted by Robert Tyszczak Psychotherapist 47 Days Ago

I bet everyone at some point of their life has been thrown back to the ground by reality and watched his/her high plans for the future fading away, relentlessly. Especially my favourite: "New Year Resolutions' '. Have we not all been there? Focus on passions, start exercising, stop gossiping, start reading, and so on, and over again ideas appear in our head and "houdini their way out", smooth and casual, just as such an order would be in the nature of things. When we are planning on doing (“planning on doing!?”) something new, and for example inspired by a friend, we decide to join the gym and exercise regularly. Soon we realise how damn hard it is to live up to such commitment in the long run. We tell ourselves: screw that, this is not for me… The idea of a change sounds promising, but when its shapes become real, i.e. when we behave in a way that we are not used to, we back off because we feel that we are losing control of reality, we start to feel uncomfortable. Paradoxically, when Ego comes to voice we are convinced that we know who we are really. In metaphor, we act just the same as a scared turtle that pulls its head out. We pull our Ego out of the shelf made out of beliefs about who we are, what we can and cannot do. When we do that, we may be able to see and experience how things are in reality. We get anxious and quickly, before anyone notices that we are "being weird" we slide back inside our shell, where we can feel big or small, or all in all the same as we have been taught to feel long before we knew there is a way out of that shell i.e. when we were children. Yet still, even if the shell means suffering or frustration, we prefer to be the way that we have been told we are over the years and we are used to, in lieu of the future we desire. The future we desire, yet reality we wouldn't be able to control.


The reason why most self-help books are rather lousy help is the fundamental difference between the conscious part of us (i.e. Ego) that demands change, and the, unconscious part (i.e. Self) which in fact would have to make that change happen so we could reach the things we desire and make them part of our lives. The latter part articulates our story, it defines how we perceive the world that surrounds us and, eventually, who we become. It is not something that we can rearrange according to the book and depending on what we want, but something that we can embrace in order to take us where we belong. The founder of Gestalt therapy Fritz Perls once said that "we live in the house of mirrors and we think we are looking out the windows.". Along with that thought, if we were up for the real change i.e. tackle addiction or depression or stop being a lazy arse and start getting things done, we would need to be able to tell the difference between the mirror and the window. And find that one window inside yourself that would allow you to see the things about yourself that no one was there to tell you, while you were being put in a wrong in the first place, as a matter of fact mostly by your parents. For me, one of the ways to open such a window is to understand the dreams. We cannot see the Self, we cannot touch It, and above all, we cannot work on It in a way instructed by the self-books. In fact, we are "It", so what we essentially intend to change is part of a whole that we cannot grasp with our senses, because it gives us our existence. While we are wishing to change our fate and devour books on wealth or happiness, we fail to realise that we are doing it "inside out". To put it differently, if all it takes is to just follow instructions, it is just the same as in metaphor the tail would be trying to wave the dog, not the other way around. And if that's what we are trying to do, then how can’t we see that, we are breaking all possible laws of nature.