Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Psychoanalysis vs. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Short/Long Term

Drinking too much is probably never "really" about drinking too much, not when you do it over and over.  Perhaps it is genetic, or folks that drink too much have other issues that they'd rather avoid through drinking.  At times it is tempting, particularly because we want to see patterns and reasons for everything, to understand drinking through extremely binary ideals, like good and evil, though the reality is probably much more incremental than dualistic; I'm not sure.  While I think that understanding your own personal history, factually, emotionally and intellectually, is vitally important to go forward (we can't figure out what to do prescriptively without first understanding it descriptively), it is also tempting to think that figuring out key markers that spurred on unhealthy addictions/compulsions is the same as figuring out how to deal with them in the future.  

There are sources of pain in everyone's past.  "Getting them"--having them revealed to you, understanding how they play a role in your current mentality, figuring them out through deductive work, is decidedly long term thinking.  These events happened, often, some time ago, whereas, our shame, guilt, anxiety, or depression, is short term or immediate, though we may think of it as long term and inescapable--there's no escaping the fact that short term alleviation helps someone understand that their affliction, whatever it is, might not persist forever more, and that's a step in the right direction, and often times, away from the bottle (or candy, or phone, or etc).

So anyway, psychoanalysis tends to focus on the long term historical events that help someone understand who they are now, and cognitive behavioral therapy (and this is almost utter reductionism) tries to transform the way we think in the future short term situations that typically trigger emotions that result in self-destructive behavior.  CBT often induces some of the same changes seen from taking psychoactive substances (anti-depressants, e.g.).  It focuses down on the core beliefs we feel about ourselves, and their inaccuracy, partially by bringing the ridiculousness of those beliefs to the surface.  One belief, for instance, is perfectionism.  For someone thinking perfectionistically (made up word), there is only complete success or complete failure.  It seems easy to write out and point to, and much harder to stop your brain from thinking when you attempt a task, particularly for an important audience that my have some say in your overall direction.  But it is true that there's probably less at stake than you or I think (if we're thinking this way).  Perfectionistic thinking also gets in the way of learning, or progress.  Etc.  Anyway, have a good day.

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