So you know how I often write detailed accounts of what I told Igor and what he told me in my sessions with him? Well, there is a school of thought that would say that by my doing that I am damaging the work and even impinging my growth. I have kept this idea in the back of my mind as long as I have been writing about my own personal therapy here on the blog and chose to keep it there, that is until now. Cheryl Fuller, on her brilliant blog Jung at Heart, wrote a post about the importance of container for transformation to occur in psychotherapy and it got me thinking and I felt like I needed to think about/write about this issue as a means of coming to understand exactly how I feel about this and to see if perhaps my writing about my own therapy is helping or hurting my work with Igor.
In case you don’t know about the idea of the “the container in therapy” here’s the theory: In Depth psychotherapy the relationship and the room that the work is done is understood as an alchemical vessel, a sealed vessel and as a container. According to this theory the change occurs because, in part, due to the container remaining sealed. The heat, tension and energy that happens within the therapy needs to remain in the container for change to occur. There are many ways that the therapist works to keep the container sealed: a safe room that has a sealed door and doesn’t allow for others to hear what’s going on. The therapist doesn’t take calls during session. And the therapist’s use of confidentiality is another way the container is kept sealed and safe and a place where change can occur.
Cheryl writes, in her thoughtful post, about the client’s responsibility in keeping the container sealed and warns that a hole or crack to the vessel can occur when a patient tells their friends or lovers about what happens in their sessions. She explains what can happen when such a leak can occur, ”When this happens, the vessel of that work develops a crack and some of the energy leaks out, energy that if it stayed in the vessel would be available for the work of the therapy”.
Now here’s the thing that might surprise you, I think Cheryl is right. I do. I believe that there is something lost by telling your friends and loved ones about your therapy. Before I began this blog I didn’t talk about what happened in my therapy. I wouldn’t tell He-weasel or my best friend about what my therapist said, I didn’t want to break the container. But now I regularly, frequently and happily do what some might describe as break the container here on my blog. And the strange thing is that as much as I believe in the importance of the container and I work actively and aggressively to keep it sealed for my patients, I may be rationalizing, but I feel like me writing about my therapy is very different than me just talking about it. I don’t feel like I have lost anything by telling you about my sessions with Igor. If anything, I feel that by writing about it that I am putting more energy into my work. Writing about it makes me ruminate about each element of the session in a way that I never would if I just went to therapy and didn’t think about again until I arrived for my next session.
I have never asked Igor what he thinks about it. Maybe I didn’t want to know what he thinks. Maybe if I ask he will say that he doesn’t think that me blabbing about my therapy is such a good thing (I don’t think he would say that). Perhaps it is some kind of exhibitionistic and pathological impulse (I really don’t think he would say that). I do remember once when I was telling him about a post I wrote he said something about how I was, he thought, through the blog, making psychoanalytic work accessible to people who might never consider it. He certainly has never said anything to indicate that our work is suffering because I write about it. And he did read my proposal for Thursdays with Igor, and he has read my blog and just yesterday I sent him a link to my last post.
I asked He-weasel what he thinks about all of this. He said, “You don’t write anything about therapy until you have processed it and have made meaning of it, and your writing is part of therapy in that through writing you come to greater understanding and then bring that understanding back into therapy.”
He-weasel says that what I am doing is the following (and no, he is not an attorney or a philosopher), and I quote:
“You are the First-party, you are the person who has the issue or the insight.
You tell Igor and he is the Second-party, he is the safe container and creates a safe environment.
Igor gives insight and interpretations to the First-party( you).
Then First-party (you) processes the feedback. At that point new insights are gained that allow first party to translate insights gained from second party and then communicated to third party (the blog).
And then First-party writes to Third-party (the blog).
Third-party will either respond to First-party or not.
The response elicited from Third-party will have an impact on First-party.
First-party will then take the new insights and understanding that was elicited from both writing to Third-party and received from Third-party.”
He-weasel goes onto say, “The difference between you coming from therapy and telling me about what happened in therapy over the phone and you coming from therapy and thinking about it and processing the information from the session into a blog post requires further processing and thought. Where as, if you were just telling me what happened there is no processing or thought required—that is just a displacement of energy. Where as if you are writing about it you are expanding the energy by turning a thought energy into a written word and a further change in your understanding occurs.”
“You are converting a sound( vocalization/words you say in therapy) and you relay it to Igor through your mouth( through spoken words). But after therapy, on your blog you are taking what occurred in therapy and turning it into thought and then converting that experience into symbols( the written word) and you infuse those symbols into an emotion. In turn those who read those words( and who are taking in what you experienced through their eyes( not through their ears) and which they convert into their head into thought which intermingles with their own personal experience and that has an emotional effect( either positive or negative, emotion or thought) and then they in turn will convert that it into either spoken language( maybe they talk about what they read) or they will convert their thought into written words(in comments or what they write about on their your blog) or it ends with them.”
He’s right. I open the vessel that I create out of the therapy (after the therapy) here on the blog, And in doing that I don’t believe that I am breaking the therapeutic container. Imagine, if you will, that Igor and me are making a bowl of soup together. We have this shared bowl of soup ( the therapy) and we each have individual bowls that we leave the session with. When I leave him and my session I am still stirring the soup. And, I know, that between the time Igor and I meet that he too processes our work and be brings new insights and understanding to the next session.
When I write about my therapy I am taking a little bit of the soup that we made together and putting it in another container. Everyone who comments here on the blog has a reaction to the soup (whether they share it or not). That reaction adds to the container. I then take all that you add, via comments, to that original container. The original bowl is not diminished because I get your feedback and with that feedback I bave more to add the soup. No matter what the response, I have more to bring back the original container. If no one responds to what I write I might feel unheard and I might feel bad and I would take that back to Igor. If I get a lot of positive response I also take that back to Igor. If I get negative response I most certainly take that back to Igor. So all responses come back to the original vessel and there is more rather than less.
When I tell you about Igor and my work I am only giving you a piece of it. There is much of it that I can never tell you. What I tell you, even though it is honest and true and my attempt to be candid, is not able to convey all of the experience of my therapy. There is much that happens in my therapy that I am unconscious of. And even if I could bring all that I am conscious and unconscious of I would not be able to bring Igor’s conscious and unconscious. So, my friends, what you read here is a piece of the therapy and not the whole.
Truly, the only way that I believe that I could destroy the vessel with Igor is for me to quit going to therapy. And now that I wrote that I know that even quitting therapy wouldn’t destroy the container that we co-created, nothing can. I didn’t know that before I started writing, now I do—just another example of how blogging expands my self-awareness.
Note to Cheryl: Thank you, Cheryl. I appreciate your inspiring me to think about what I am doing here and not keep it lurking in the back of my mind, unexamined.