Recently I watched a public demonstration at a large psychotherapy conference conducted by a celebrated therapist with a female clinician in her forties. The therapist connected quickly with full attention, warmth, humor, understanding, and many other fine qualities that have been found to establish a successful therapeutic relationship.
What was striking to me was that in the first few minutes of the session, the woman offered—both verbally and nonverbally—all the information necessary to intervene effectively with the issue she presented: perfectionism. As I'll explore further below, the way she thinks about and internally represents this problem has a relatively simple subjective structure.
With the right methods, one can quickly determine how someone "does" a problem like perfectionism internally, and then move quickly to alter the structure of this experience to transform a troubling lifelong pattern. For instance, the structure of most phobias—as well as most other troubling memories, and flashbacks in PTSD—is that the client recalls a horrible experience, steps into it, and reexperiences the intense feelings the original traumatic experience. When the client learns how to step out of that memory, and view it from a distance, as if it were happening to someone else in a movie, say, he spontaneously views the same events with equanimity, compassion, or some other more resourceful feeling.
In contrast, the structure of grief is exactly the opposite…