The Unconscious Motivations Approach
While there’s merit to the maxim “live in the present,” the reality is: past experiences can be so significant; they’ll affect you for the rest of your life. Sometimes the effect is explicit; it’s easy to pinpoint when they occur. But there are occasions when personal history impacts individuals in hidden ways. Obsessions and compulsions you don’t understand, for example, may be results of events you’ve pushed outside awareness.
If you want to understand the unconscious motivations behind your present actions, then Psychodynamic Therapy or Psychoanalysis may be your therapy of choice.
These days most people have heard of Sigmund Freud, who developed Psychoanalysis, but few understand what it’s really about.
Psychodynamic Therapy and Psychoanalysis are two related approaches that give people insight to the unconscious: the part of our psyche we have little to no awareness of. The unconscious is the repository of things we’ve repressed, things we consider as emotionally threatening. Despite being hidden, the unconscious influences our present lives.
Psychodynamic Therapy is focused on immediate concerns, is usually short-term, and interested primarily in how current issues relate to one another.
Psychoanalysis, on the other hand, is a more in-depth analysis of maladaptive behaviours, sometimes even going as far as early childhood experiences. Thus, it can take longer, maybe years. While Psychoanalysis started with a strong focus on repressed desires for sex and aggression, contemporary practitioners are more holistic and grounded.
How does it work?
There are many techniques used in Psychodynamic Therapy and Psychoanalysis, but all are geared towards the same goal: understanding unconscious forces working behind the scenes.
Dream Analysis, for example, provides material relating to issues we often don’t want to attend to in our waking life. Free association, when you say the first thing that comes into your mind after a stimulus, is also a valuable Psychodynamic and Psychoanalytic tool. On some occasions, therapists offer interpretations based on how you respond to his or her interventions. There are also therapists who use altered states of consciousness to understand hidden motivations.
But exploration of the unconscious can be straightforward. A look at the way you make decisions, interact with others, or form worldviews can provide material that you and your therapist can study.
What issues does it treat?
Psychodynamic Therapy and Psychoanalysis are recommended for persons who wish to understand why they behave the way they do. If you keep choosing abusive partners, for example, therapy can help you break pattern by understanding unconscious gains in such a dysfunctional relationship.
Both approaches are also recommended for treatment of clinical cases. Consider specific phobias. Agoraphobia or fear of open spaces could have started from having been left alone in a crowded mall as a toddler. Through therapy, the person can make sense of his fear, empowering him or her through insight.
Psychodynamic and Psychoanalytic Therapy are also recommended for self-knowledge. Early childhood relationships, especially with the main care-provider, can provide information about a great variety of current tendencies. Approach-avoidance issues, need for recognition, sense of autonomy, and even self-esteem are all likely influenced by experiences as a child, and thus worth understanding through therapy.
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