Today I asked a Lauren what were her best hopes from our meeting. After some thought she said less stress. I asked what might replace the stress she thought again and eventually said “Nothing, just no stress and not thinking of all the things that were wrong in my life.” So I asked what would be on her mind instead, what would replace the feeling of stress. Another long thought in which she eventually asked the question herself: “What would replace the stress?” After another long pause a smile began to arise in her face and as the smile grew to a glow she said, slowly, “Joy”. “What difference might that make to your first waking moment?” I asked. Very slowly and with much thought Lauren answered each of my questions, discovering, as if for the first time, how joy would shape each moment of her morning – looking forward to the day, a sense of purpose shown in her energy of movement, the hug she’s give her son, the conversation she would have with her daughter, how she would sit on the bus, and so on. Lauren had no idea how much she had known about the future she yearned for. It was almost like hearing another person speak yet it all came from somewhere inside her. Once again it made me believe how right Freud was to identify the unconscious – those aspects of our knowledge and experience that spend so long lying hidden from us. And how misguided he was to then direct attention to each and every painful experience from the past. For therapy to work it must, at some point, help a person to step forward. So often, just discovering what that step might be is enough to change the course of a life.
Maybe Lauren will come back for more questions and there is never a guarantee that they will help her in her search. On the other hand, she may already have begun a new course in her life as many people do even after only on session.
It is often forgotten that Freud was originally a brief therapist who then allowed his theory to lead the way.