Evan

Evan was struggling with the idea of breaking up with his wife. He could not make the decision because of some immobilizing fear that he would lose contact with his 5 year old son, even if the couple had joint custody. He had been attending some support groups and had heard of such concerns, including some of the underlying issues -- the fear of losing the family, of being alone, of missing the spouse regardless of how horrible the relationship had become, and of losing one's children in a battle for their affection. A friend of his also pointed out that the quality of his time with his son, even if it declined by a few days each week, would go way up because his wife would not be intruding. Of all this counsel, Evan said "I don't know, it just don't cut it. I don't feel any better. I still get really shaken by the idea of leaving and I can't see how it would work. I'm sure I'd lose my son."

By contrast, he realized during one of our sessions that his great fear of time away from his son had to do with his intense self-doubt. He feared that his son would be brainwashed by whatever denigrating things his wife might say about him to their son behind his back. This was a silly fear, because his son had made it very clear that he sees all of his mother's anxieties, does not take her rantings to heart, and looks to his father for more love and security. But it was an unconscious fear, so he had no control over it. Once he became aware of it, the change in him was striking, and it proves that this fear was indeed the block. Previously hesitant, apologetic, and vague, he now spoke with strength and in clear and complete sentences. Rather than sitting huddled in a corner of the couch, he sat up and took command. Most important, he could finally think clearly and rationally about his family situation and move towards a decision; he was no longer stuck in anxiety and confusion.

The realization that gave Evan such liberation and clarity was personal, emotional ("I feel it in my bowels" is how Evan described it), and felt like the lifting of a great weight. This is what I mean by insight. To the extent that his friend's counsel was calming, comforting, and of course accurate, it was therapeutic. But the kind of intensely personal and energizing insight that Evan experienced in session is what should be happening in psychotherapy.

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