Progressive Politics Research and Commentary by Janette Rainwater
 
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You're in Charge: A Guide to Becoming Your Own Therapist

Chapter One

Introduction: The Art of Self-Observation                      p.1

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Possibly you're feeling restless. Or you may feel overwhelmed by the demands of wife, husband, children, or job. You may feel unappreciated by those people closest to you. Perhaps you feel angry that life is passing you by and you haven't accomplished all those great things you had hoped to do. Something feels missing from your life. You were attracted by the title of this book and wish that you really were in charge. What to do?

More dramatically, you may feel that you are falling apart. "Can't" concentrate. "Can't" stop crying. And your appointment with the psychotherapist-- the one your best friend recommended-- is not until Wednesday at 4. What to do?

This book may have something to offer you, although only you can know--- if you're willing to take the time to do the exercises and to agree to the proposed self-examination.

The book is intended for those people who are seriously interested in doing self-therapy, who wish to grow, and who are willing to take responsibility for themselves. I'm not against people seeing psychotherapists (of course not--- that's how I make my living). However, I believe that psychotherapy is "successful" only when the clients also start learning to do self-therapy. Think about it: a person spends only one to five hours a week with his therapist out of the one hundred hours plus that he is awake. So if he changes or grows during the short time he spends with the therapist, he must be doing something helpful for himself during that much longer non-therapy time.

I will never forget Dorothy, who called me on a Monday in tears and "desperate". The earliest I could see her was late on Thursday. As strongly as I believe in the power of the individual to take charge of her life, I was not prepared for the person who entered my office. She was not crying,not desperate, and she had sorted through the recent, harrowing events of her life. She had also made some decisions about future actions. When I asked her how she had done this, particularly in view of her state on Monday, she replied, "I was relieved to know that you could see me and that I wouldn't have to go through this alone any more. I was so impatient for Thursday that I started imagining what you would say, how you would analyze my present situation, and what suggestions you would give me." That's self-therapy!

At best the psychotherapist is an expert, creative catalyst who will accelerate the process of self-therapy. At worst, he increases the hopeless/helpless feelings of his patients by letting them know either subtly or explicitly that he believes that they "need" him and are incapable of taking charge of their own lives. (I will be mentioning throughout the book those situations where I believe individual therapy, group therapy, and sometimes family therapy would be advisable.) And if you are currently in therapy, you and your therapist might decide that this book would be a useful adjunct to your therapy.

The basic tool whose use is taught throughout this book is the art of self-observation. Philosophers and mystics, people such as Socrates, Gurdjieff, Krishnamurti, the Buddhists, and Lao Tsu, have all stressed the necessity for self-observation or awareness as the first requirement for becoming enlightened. Self-observation is also the principal road to personal freedom from the various self-torture trips that we humans are so adept at taking. It's important to learn the difference between genuine self-observation and introspection or obsessive, squirrel-cage thinking. Much of the book will be concerned with making this discrimination.

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Site last changed November 20, 2001.

© Janette Rainwater 1997-2001

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