Feelings 101

I occasionally think how backwards it is that we go to school to learn math, reading, and science but we didn’t take classes on feelings or relationships, things that will impact us for the rest of our lives. Many of my patients struggle with identifying and expressing feelings. Often, they grew up learning that certain emotions were “bad,” and they received little to no help from their parents in educating them about affect management. Nowadays, many children are learning in school and at home essential skills to help them identify and regulate their feelings, something of which most adults today could definitely make use.

When working with patients who need help developing a language for their emotions, I encourage them to begin with what I label “primary feelings,” akin to primary colors. They start by learning the basic emotions of anger, sadness, happiness, and fear. Or as some therapists say, “Mad, sad, glad, and scared.” These are the red, blue, and yellow of feelings. If we put each of these feelings on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the mildest degree of the emotion and 10 being the most intense, we can start to differentiate the varying degrees of an emotion. For example, if we have a scale for anger, we put “angry” in the middle at 5. Along the anger scale, we can put feelings such as irritated and annoyed at the low end of the scale - around 2 or 3 - and a feeling such as enraged at a 10, on the high end of the scale. These feelings all are different forms of anger, just to varying intensities of this emotion. On the “happy” scale, with “happy” a 5, we might label a 1 or 2 “satisfied” or “content,” while a 9 or 10 might be “ecstatic” or “exuberant.” Additionally, some feelings are a combination of primary ones. For instance, “hurt” might be a combination of sad and angry. “Surprised” may be a mixture of fear and happiness. When we peruse lists of feelings, we start to see how most labels for feelings can be either a degree of a primary feeling and/or a combination of multiple primary feelings.

The other skill that most patients need help with is differentiating feelings from thoughts and behaviors. If we stick with the core emotion of anger, then anger is the feeling, while slapping is a behavior used to express this feeling, and “I hate you” is a thought that is attached to this core feeling. Most people confuse these and think that “getting angry” is the same as hitting and screaming. We have choice about which behaviors we want to employ to express a feeling; even when it feels “out of control,” we can choose not to hit or scream. We do not have choice about the feeling itself. Feelings are neither good nor bad, they simply “are,” the same way thirst and hunger simply are physiological states. People rarely judge themselves for being thirsty but people often judge themselves for being angry or sad. We cannot choose if we are angry or not, but we can choose how we respond to that anger.

Much of my work with patients around feelings is to educate them about the differences between thoughts, behaviors, and emotions and to help them learn that emotions are not something “bad” they need to run from. I can help them learn various healthy and effective ways to express feelings, in contrast to unhealthy, maladaptive expressions of emotions they may have learned up until now. Most importantly, I help my patients learn that feelings are not something they need to avoid at all costs, but rather essential parts of being human.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

One of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned which I try to impart upon my patients is that actions speak louder than words every time. This applies whether we are discussing another person in the patient’s life or the patient herself. In other words, one can deceive themselves and others, either intentionally or not, but if we pay attention to an individual’s behavior, we get a much clearer picture of what is really going on. The unconscious is incredibly powerful and one’s behaviors cannot help but betray one’s true sentiments. We can train ourselves to pay more attention and become better attuned to the non-verbal cues that are being expressed.

These non-verbal cues include subtle facial expressions and body postures as well as more obvious behavioral patterns such as perpetual lateness and cancellations, continued inaction, or repeated substance use. I encourage my patients to “turn off the volume” and pay attention to the non-verbal signals they pick up on from others, rather than the words they are being told. One patient who is having problems in her marriage is continually frustrated and upset when her husband says he wants to fight for their relationship but his actions indicate otherwise. This spouse has taken little to no steps to start individual or couples therapy, has not done anything to improve his health through diet and exercise, continues to drink alcohol excessively, and does very little to help out with the household chores. Another patient often arrives for her appointment ten to twenty minutes late or cancels a day before and asks to wait until the following week to meet. Yet another patient consistently arrives for his appointment thirty minutes early yet “forgets” to pay his co-payment every other week. Therapists have learned to track these behavioral patterns, for they provide a wealth of information about the individual’s unconscious motivations.

I caution my patients not to interpret the behaviors of others. We may hypothesize about what the non-verbal behavior tells us, but we are not mind-readers and we cannot know with certainty the meaning of these behaviors. For instance, the patient who is consistently late for her appointments may be unconsciously expressing anger toward me and/or may be acting on her fears about accessing painful emotions in therapy by attempting to regulate the amount of contact we have to ensure that she not come in contact with these feelings.

Interpreting another’s behavior can lead to confusion, anger, and faulty assumptions; simply paying attention to what the patterns of behavior are is safer, as it is almost always non-disputable. If I point out to the female patient above that she frequently arrives to her sessions late or cancels her therapy appointments, this data is merely observable fact that is indisputable. If I interpret the meaning of this behavior as an expression of the patient’s anger toward me, then I have crossed into the murky territory of attempting to guess the reasons for her behavior. The patient may disagree with my interpretation and a therapeutic rift may occur or my deductions may be incorrect. I caution my patients to stick to the observable behaviors without interpreting the meaning of said behaviors. By strengthening our ability to “mute” another’s words and tune into behaviors, we can develop our ability to accurately pay attention to the incredibly powerful non-verbal communications that are being expressed before our eyes.

The Role of Meditation Practice In Psychotherapy

In recent years I have begun implementing meditation practice during the first ten minutes of a session with some of my patients. The choice whether to meditate or not is always at the discretion of the patient. The purpose of such practice is to help bring awareness to one’s internal world in the present moment. This encompasses improving one’s attunement to emotions and physical sensations that can be detected in the body. I have found that many people are initially uncomfortable being with themselves in the here-and-now, and thus they flee being in the present and resort to living in the past or future, allowing their thoughts to distract them from what is right before them.

Most people do not need my help accessing their thoughts; they can fairly readily identify what they are thinking. It can be a different matter when they are trying to identify what they are feeling. When an emotion is intensely felt, it is likelier that the individual will notice it and be able to describe it. One is more apt to recognize that she is enraged than to recognize that she is mildly annoyed. But if we believe that all people have thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations at every moment, whether we are aware of it or not, then we can begin to see how difficult it can be for many people to access feelings when felt to a lesser degree. This concept that people have thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations at every moment is similar to breathing. Once an individual is encouraged to focus on his breathing, he usually can do so easily. We are all breathing at every moment but often we are not paying attention to our breathing. The same applies for thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations. Some people may find identifying and accessing physical sensations challenging. Still more may struggle to identify and stay with their feelings. Trauma survivors in particular may struggle in this way, given that one of the ways they learned to cope with the trauma they experienced was to numb themselves and dissociate from their internal world. This serves a protective function. As adults many of these individuals have difficulty knowing what they are experiencing when it comes to emotions and physical sensations.

Meditation seems to assist people in building their awareness of what is happening internally. Furthermore, it can help people learn to stay in the present moment and tolerate inhabiting their own internal world without feeling threatened by unpleasant emotions. I’ve witnessed people who initially had trouble sitting still because they were so anxious learn to relax into a ten minute meditation practice and open themselves up to the present. With most patients we start and end the meditation practice with four deep breathing inhalations and exhalations. This seems to help people relax and prepare themselves for the meditation. During the meditation itself, patients are instructed to focus on something simple, such as their breath, that they can keep returning to when their minds start to wander. They simply can notice and be curious about the thought that distracted them and then return to their breathing. With some patients, it is preferred to scan the body from head to toe during the meditation as a way to tune into what is happening internally. By conducting a body scan, one might become aware of tension and other physical sensations that are being held in various body parts. Another option is to draw one’s awareness to the sounds around them, both near and far. I invite my patients to focus on their breathing or to do a body scan, however, because these are ways to increase awareness of one’s internal space, whereas sound brings the individual to something that exists outside of them. Over time, most patients tell me that they have found that the meditation helps them be more aware of what is going on inside them, both with emotions and with physical sensations, and these skills can transfer to the their lives apart from the meditation. For the purpose of developing these skills during psychotherapy, I find that the term “awareness building” rather than “meditation” may be a better fit. People can get confused by what is meant by meditation practice. When we agree that we are working on improving their awareness of their feelings and body sensations, they can best understand how such practice can be of value to them. After the ten minutes, I find it useful to briefly discuss how the patient experienced the exercise and what she became aware of during the time. I also attend to whether starting with this practice has a positive shift for the remainder of the session and can help the patient feel more present and connected to me while engaged in the therapeutic endeavor.

The Role of Attachment Theory in Psychotherapy

Although attachment theory has its origins in the research of infant development and is not a model for how to conduct psychotherapy, I have found it increasingly useful as a therapist to consider attachment style when sitting with a patient. In a healthy development children develop a secure attachment with their primary caretaker, usually the mother. More often than not an insecure attachment develops. John Bowlby outlines three types of insecure attachments. An avoidant attachment style is one in which the child adopts the attitude that he/she is fine without the caretaker and maintains this “I don’t need you” stance throughout life. An individual with an ambivalent attachment style responds to an unpredictable parent by either becoming angry or exhibiting helplessness. And an individual with a disorganized attachment style can present as scattered and disoriented, especially when the attachment figure is unavailable.

These attachment styles originate in infancy and persist through adolescence and adulthood. We find that these are transmuted generationally, with children often mirroring the attachment style of their caretaker. It is imperative for a clinician to be aware of one’s own attachment style as well as to attend to one’s patient’s unique attachment style, as these will emerge in the treatment as the relationship between the therapist and patient evolves. It may well inform the clinician and patient about what is being enacted in the therapy, and if a clinician is not paying close enough attention, the danger is that things get acted out in the therapeutic relationship without being addressed.

Attachment styles are not set in stone. Through the work of therapy, someone who previously had an insecure attachment style can learn to develop healthy attachments in their closest relationships. It may not replicate the experience of one who was born with secure attachments, but it is still possible for the individual to establish and maintain close, meaningful interpersonal relationships. As a therapist who works relationally, I view the therapeutic relationship as the primary agent of change. By focusing directly on attending to what occurs in the relationship between therapist and patient, we can afford the patient the opportunity to experience a healthy attachment, possibly for the first time. The real relationship between therapist and patient offers the patient the chance to learn and practice developing true closeness with a nonjudgmental parental figure with whom one can reveal their authentic self without repercussion of rejection, abandonment, or wrath. Over time, the hope is that by modeling a healthy relationship between therapist and patient, this experience will transfer to other close relationships outside of this dyadic relationship. In this way, the bulk of therapy happens in the room by addressing the ever-changing landscape of the real relationship between therapist and patient. The therapeutic relationship thus presents a unique opportunity for emotional intimacy that may endure as one of the closest and healthiest relationships the patient has known.

The Plight of the Performing Artist

The gratification of a standing ovation, uproarious laughter when you land your joke just right, the sense of mastery you can experience at reaping the rewards of your hard work and preparation…these are just some of the allures of being a performing artist. Inherently, nothing is wrong with basking in the limelight for a job well done. But when the measure of one’s sense of self-worth is determined by external validation as opposed to internal validation, it may drive that individual into a nonending chase after that all too temporal adoration.

Children develop self-worth by the age of five. In a healthy development, the child learns an intrinsic sense of self-worth and is internally validated. Such a child comes to believe that he is a valuable individual merely because of his existence on this planet, as opposed to because of how good his grades are, how popular he is, how attractive he is, or any other of the numerous false markers of “worthiness” that may be prescribed at a young age. Often when one is seeking elusive validation of their self-worth, that individual may feel incredibly insecure and “less than” on the inside. If that person then pursues a career which is so closely intertwined with the response of an audience, as would be the case of a performing artist, then often the need for external validation becomes the thing that drives the artist’s performance above all else. When one’s primary motivation for one’s art hinges on the accolades of an audience, it is likely that this individual at his core has a depreciated sense of self.

In addition to seeking constant adulation, performing artists may attempt to compensate for a lack that is at their core. Numerous behaviors may be employed to this end: substance abuse, eating disorders, anger outbursts, depression, anxiety, self-harm, and sexual acting out, to name a few. Such behaviors often are attempts to manage underlying feelings of low self-worth.

Psychotherapy can help a performing artist uncover the previously hidden unconscious motivations that have been operating, thereby assisting her in increasing her awareness of underlying relational patterns that get repeated if not addressed. By becoming aware of how one has exhausted herself with this constant drive for validation, one may be better positioned to shift things so that one can learn to derive satisfaction from one’s intrinsic sense of self-worth. Such a person will still have ups and downs, losses and successes, like any individual, but one’s identity can remain solid and intact even during times of hardship because one’s sense of self-worth is no longer dictated by some outside validation over which we have no power.

Suicide Survivors Part Two: The Parallel Process

In my last blog post, I addressed the topic of suicide survivors, i.e. people who are impacted by the loss of an individual who has taken his or her life. In light of the recent news of the suicides of celebrities who are in the public spotlight, I wish to follow up on my last post by focusing on the issue of "parallel process."

One of the common themes that most survivors will speak about is how powerless they feel in the wake of such a tragic event. Often they feel guilty that they were not able to do more to prevent the suicide. In the presence of the survivor's grief, others can feel powerless as well, not knowing how to best provide support or comfort to the survivor. They may feel compelled to help but are not sure how. I believe that in this particular circumstance, this response differs from other types of losses. We frequently can find ourselves in situations where friends, family members, and colleagues are impacted by the death of someone close to them. Many people have experienced these types of losses themselves and/or have witnessed others who are in mourning.  Yet this may not be as frequent when it comes to suicide. Especially if the person has never experienced a suicide or known a suicide survivor, they can feel ill-equipped to know how to respond.

In psychological terms, we can refer to this experience of helplessness or powerlessness as a "parallel process." It is often the case that the people left behind can experience in themselves a parallel experience to the person who took his or her life, namely that of feeling powerless. We can imagine that the person who saw no alternative to suicide must have felt incredibly helpless, powerless to do anything to improve their situation and feeling utterly hopeless that things can get better. Many of these people have tried multiple things to alleviate their symptoms, such as therapy, medication, meditation, yoga, body work, nutrition and exercise. At the end of the day, none of these things have alleviated the depression, shame, negative sense of self, and other feelings underlying their suicidal ideation and intent.

When others are caught in a parallel process, feeling powerless ourselves, our instinct is often to try to "fix it," to find solutions for the people who are grieving. This stems from the discomfort they have tolerating their own profound sense of powerlessness. I encourage people to sit with this discomfort. Sometimes the most we can do is to simply offer support, communicate that we are thinking about the person who is grief-stricken, and let them know that we care about them. Depending on the specific situation, we may spend time with the survivor, bring them food, and check in with them. It's different for each person. To ask the survivor what would help them can even feel like too much for them; it puts the burden on them to have to respond or even know what they need. Our intentions are coming from a place of a sincere wish to help. It's good to remind ourselves that sometimes just the simple things are a form of help. 

Someone once told me that hearing a friend say, "I'm thinking of you" felt a lot better than if the person asks them, "How are you doing?" or "How can I be helpful to you?" A simple "I'm thinking of you" conveys that you care without requiring anything in return.  

Suicide Survivors

The term "suicide survivor" is unfamiliar to most people. They assume it refers to people who have attempted suicide themselves; in fact, it refers to people who have lost someone to suicide. Whether it is a family member, partner, friend, patient or colleague, losing someone to suicide is incredibly challenging to those who are left behind to grieve. It is a far more complicated type of death that may take a longer time to grieve and can stir up a variety of feelings such as sadness, shock, anger, and guilt. Many survivors feel very isolated, experiencing that those around them cannot understand what they are going through. Also, there is a stigma attached to suicide that often causes people to keep this information a secret. 

Working with suicide survivors is one area I specialize in, although many patients come to me for other reasons and it often isn't until much later in their treatment that I learn they've lost someone to suicide. The impact of this loss can be tremendous. We need to take into consideration the specific relationship to the patient. Losing a friend or sibling is quite different than losing a parent. Losing someone the patient had a close, loving attachment to is different than losing someone where the bond was more fraught. We also want to pay attention to the method of suicide and the patient's unique experience around the death. For instance, the trauma of a survivor who witnessed or discovered the person who committed suicide varies from that of those who were distanced from this immediate visual and auditory trauma. The experience of someone who had a loved one who had previous attempts or threatened suicide for years varies from that of the patient who was completely caught off guard by the loss of one whose death was spontaneous or unexpected. A health care provider who loses a patient to suicide may experience a particular type of guilt, as their colleagues or the institution they work for may consciously or unconsciously fault them for the death. 

As you might imagine, this is a very complex topic that has so many variables that one may have never even considered. In working with survivors, I try hard to not make any assumptions about their experiences. I allow for the space and time for them to tell their story and express their feelings about their loss. Many of my patients have described how I am the first person they talked to at length about their loss because of their shame and their experience of feeling misunderstood by others. I sometimes will encourage survivors to seek out a support group where they can hear other survivors tell their stories so that they can feel less alone with their grief. 

One good resource for more information is The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which has information that can be useful for suicide survivors: https://afsp.org/ 

How Women Dis/empower Themselves

I have been struck by how many of my female patients have been incredibly empowered to take action in the world and stand up for social justice issues and causes that are important to them. Yet, when it comes to their personal lives, they struggle to assert themselves with their partners, their families, and their friends. Somehow the strengths they can tap into "out there" fall away when it is much closer to home. Men may also have difficulties with asserting themselves, but in this post I want to focus on the phenomenon I am seeing with so many women. 

Many of these women will talk about how difficult it is for them to ask for what they need and to establish and maintain healthy boundaries. Often they find themselves "over-explaining," which actually is much more disempowering than being simple, direct, and firm. Or they don't even attempt to assert their needs. Some patients have expressed a fear that the response they will get will be an angry one. Or they will disappoint someone and then feel bad. Or they will be ignored and dismissed. Or the other person could leave them and they will be all alone. 

When we consider the ways boys and girls are socialized to express and manage their feelings, typically it is acceptable for boys to be angry but not sad or scared and girls aren't supposed to get angry. Of course this is ridiculous; all people feel the whole gamut of emotions and this is entirely natural and part of being human. Furthermore, when we explore with the patients their specific family and peer experiences growing up, we come to learn more about why they have developed the beliefs and behaviors they have. It is probably much riskier then to express anger toward the people they are closest to and it is safer to express anger and righteousness in situations in which things are a bit removed and there is a distance. 

In treatment with me, these women can have the experience of working with a male therapist who will offer a different alternative by not responding to their anger in the ways they expect and have experienced before. Focusing on our relationship can thus be of utmost importance to their healing process and to helping them practice assertiveness skills, emotion regulation and boundary setting. Over time, they can grow into being strong women who take themselves seriously and are taken seriously by those around them. 

Couples Counseling From a Psychodynamic Framework

I often reflect on how the skills we need to navigate our lives through adulthood were not taught to us in school. Most of us did not get taught how to identify and express feelings. We didn't take classes in how to nurture healthy relationships and how to sustain these throughout one's lifetime. While a great deal of effort may be given to one's career, an equal amount of effort might be missing when it comes to the relationships that we consider most important.

When the issues that bring people into treatment seem to center on their primary relationship, then couples counseling may be warranted as the preferred treatment modality. Unlike individual therapy where we delve into a patient's psyche to understand how one's unconscious processes inform current behaviors, in couples counseling the couple is the patient and the focus of our work shifts to attending to how the partners communicate, manage conflict, and show empathy for each other. Often my role is to teach specific skills along these lines. I might help them learn active listening and empathy skills. Perhaps I may teach effective ways to deescalate fights and constructively handle arguments. I may encourage partners to talk to each other and not simply to me so they can practice communication, thus bringing their relational issues directly into the room so that I can observe and intervene as needed. As the therapist, I am in the unique position of watching how they interact and I can pay attention to the moment to moment shifts in their conversation to see where they might get stuck or how conflict escalates. 

As a psychodynamic therapist, I also place importance on understanding each person's individual history and how these intersect in their relationship. It is not arbitrary when two people find each other and embark on a journey to form and maintain a relationship. Each person brings to the table their individual relational dynamics that they learned as far back as childhood. Often people reenact in their current relationship patterns that they experienced in their parents' relationship or in their own relationships to their parents. These relational patterns continue to get repeated and played out in their subsequent relationships throughout life. When we can identify these relational patterns and how they are reenacted, then we can set about to shift these in healthier directions. When we come to understand how each individual is triggered by their partner and how that may be connected to experiences they had in childhood and adolescence, it helps each person develop a deeper understanding of their partner, an awareness of how their own behavior is impacting their partner, and the potential for greater emotional intimacy. 

Relational patterns tend to get passed from generation to generation until someone takes the initiative to work through these in the context of psychotherapy. One can imagine how complicated this can be when each member of a couple is bringing to the relationship specific patterns that can be traced back to their own early relationships and those of the generations that came before. So a husband's behavior may trigger his wife in ways that are similar to how one of her parents triggered her or similar to how her parents and grandparents related to each other, and the same can be true for how the husband experiences his wife's behaviors. Usually these patterns aren't easily identifiable at the start of couples counseling, but over time, with the help of a trained therapist, they can be elucidated and worked on. The hope is that by working together in this way, each partner can come to experience a more rewarding and intimate coupling into the future. 

 

The Relational Nature of Shame

In the play (and movie) Proof, the character Hal asks, "How embarrassing is it if I say last night was wonderful?," to which Catherine responds, "It's only embarrassing if I don't agree." This is a great example of illustrating how shame is relational in nature. As Catherine points out, Hal's question might have been met with a variety of reactions. If Catherine were to respond, for instance, by saying she wishes it hadn't happened, Hal might experience shame about what he said and may even regret that they spent the night together. But Catherine agrees with him, they kiss, and he is elated. Without our even realizing it, our experiences of shame are often closely tied to other people's reactions. The key component to hold onto from this illustration is that one may say or do the exact same thing yet have a completely different self-experience based on the reaction of the other.

From a very early age, children may develop positive or negative self-experiences based on how the people closest to them (parents, siblings, peers, teachers) respond to them. If a young boy is expressing excitement and vitality about what he is doing, for instance, his father might respond by mirroring the boy's enthusiasm and encouraging him to engage in the activity. This could lead to the boy developing a healthy sense of himself and his own agency in the world. If the father, on the other hand, were to respond by telling the boy to knock it off, then the boy is likely to believe that what he was doing displeases his father and is wrong. Often, the reaction of the other is much subtler. In this example, the father might simply give a lukewarm response, ignore the boy, or register discomfort on his face. These more nuanced, less apparent reactions can be incredibly impressionable on a child's sense of self. Even if it is not conscious, the boy might come to learn that expressing his vitality is something to be ashamed of, and this might continue to be confirmed by subsequent, similar experiences. Once the boy reaches adolescence and adulthood, a lifetime of such experiences may have led him to squelch his own excitement and dampen his vitality.

I find that by helping patients understand how closely linked their shame is to the reactions of others, it helps them to shift how they view their past experiences. Others' reactions could lead either to greater acceptance or greater shame about the part of self in question. If a female patient comes to learn that her shame about her appearance is tied to comments and reactions she has gotten from other people throughout her life and to images that our society has held up as an ideal, she might begin to reevaluate her own beliefs and self-perception. In this way, having the awareness of just how powerful is the relational nature of shame, one might be better positioned to change one's own deeply held views and challenge distorted beliefs about oneself. 

 

Mourning Losses

When we think about mourning losses we usually think of grieving a loved one who died or perhaps grieving the end of a relationship. Yet, much of the work of psychotherapy involves mourning losses that are less transparent - losses that can be traced back to childhood. This is the type of mourning that I wish to address in this blog post.

Most adult behavior has its origins in our early childhood experiences. We may unconsciously cling to relational patterns and beliefs that stem from the earliest years of our lives. Oftentimes, the reason we do this is to avoid incredibly painful feelings that may arise and engulf us when we allow ourselves to fully access these experiences. To recognize that one's parent was never able to love and accept them unconditionally, that this parent may never apologize for abuse or injuries they've inflicted, that the parent may never change and one may never have the mother or father they have always longed for and needed, that they will never be truly vindicated for the traumas they have endured - to come to terms with such losses is to open oneself up to tremendous grief. People may spend the majority of their lives engaging in all sorts of behaviors that are attempts to stave off such mourning.

Continued avoidance of mourning unresolved losses from our past comes at a devastating cost. People may suffer from depression, anxiety, and any number of other mental illnesses. They may experience chronic pain and health concerns, abuse substances, repeat unhealthy relationship patterns, and find themselves having ongoing difficulties at work and in their social lives. Even worse, they may inflict the same injuries that they suffered onto their partners and children. 

We can understand how not allowing oneself to mourn the death of a loved one can impede one's healing; we may allow ourselves and encourage others to take whatever time is needed to fully grieve, being gentle in the knowing that mourning can take various forms and evoke a gamut of emotions.  The same concept applies to mourning losses that are much more deeply buried. If working through these losses in therapy didn't have the potential to help an individual achieve greater self-awareness, profound healing, more satisfying relationships and one's personal life goals, then there would be absolutely no good reason to ask our patients to undergo a process which has the potential to stir up such pain. Still, I know of no other way to make long-lasting fundamental positive change. There's a corny saying in the business (alright, there are several) that you have to go through it to get through it. I think this expression is rather apt when it comes to this topic of mourning losses from one's childhood.