Changes in the habitual attitudes and behaviors that shape our lives rarely happen as the result of psychological epiphanies or emotional catharsis. Most therapeutic progress comes from the painstaking process of continual practice that reinforces some behaviors while actively discouraging others.
Some people can drink to excess for years without experiencing the negative consequences that can destroy their lives. So when does someone cross the tenuous line from habit into addiction? And what’s the difference between the two anyway?
When routines and habits become as lifeless as the manner in which one brushes one’s teeth, when the choreography of one’s existence resembles a blindfolded slog through quicksand—rather than the Jets and Sharks leaping across the streets of the Upper West Side—something must be done.
Most clients have automatic habits of thinking, feeling, and verbalizing experiences that imprison them in a world of gray sameness. How do we help them escape? The most immediate way is to ditch your logical analysis and help them experience a felt sense.
Making yourself profoundly unhappy takes tenacity and creativity. But the real art of it is to behave in ways that allow you to claim yourself to be an innocent victim, ideally of the very people from whom you’re forcibly extracting compassion and pity.
How do you help 200 teenagers who’ve had to flee their country find a path to peace in a new place? A psychiatrist who’s traveled across the world to help traumatized refugees from Tibet guides them to a source of wisdom and hope within themselves.