The older I get, the wiser (I believe) I become. Along the way I’ve come to realise over and over again that humanity can be divided into two categories: To those who know how to talk the talk and to those who know how to walk the walk. The majority belong to the first group.
Some people may be complaining and whining about any kind of issue or problem they are facing. Most of them know the solution. But as most things in life, it’s easier said than done (or so they say). The unconscious forces pulling them back are stronger. So they keep whining.
It was Freud who first started to doubt his own theory, namely, that man is driven by the pleasure principle, that is, to seek pleasure and avoid pain. In his long line of work he realised that some people choose to remain self-destructive. He concluded that there may be pleasure in pain also but usually the person doesn’t consciously experience the pleasure. There is an unconscious satisfaction that “I am getting what I deserve.”
But this process is unconscious, the person doesn’t realise that he’s doing it. What he knows consciously is that he wants to be constructive in life, but the results show the contrary. The reasons for this are rarely clear, especially at the beginning of therapy. After some time the reasons may start to show and the client may get to the bottom of things. But even when the problems were established in a very early stage of life when there was no language or memory, work can still be done. Psychoanalysis emphasizes the emotional communication in the room between the analysand and the analyst. And emotions were there from the very beginning of life when there was no verbal communication. For the psychoanalyst (and the analysand) the feelings in the room are the tools to make sense in a senseless world, whether an internal or external one or both.
Usually the person who is repeatedly acting destructively towards himself may have experienced a variety of negative emotions early in life like, anger, betrayal, abandonment, disappointment, etc. Whether these feelings are justified or not is irrelevant, these feelings are real. And even if they are unconscious they are still affecting the person’s life.
I’m always reminded of T.S. Eliot’s poem whenever I think about the goal we want to reach in psychoanalysis:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
Nobody said it’s easy, but it’s all well worth it.
Psychoanalysis is a talking therapy. You learn to talk but eventually you need to walk. It may take some time, it depends on the individual, each person is unique. At some point the analysand would take control of his life and would finally do the things that he had always said he would do but never did. He was just a talker, now he is becoming a walker.