People complain that therapy goes on “forever”. Freud himself wrote about the lengthy nature of psychoanalysis. He pointed out that a person needs time in treatment before becoming free of his or her symptoms of mental distress like depression, anxiety, fears, sexual issues, anger and so forth. Why does it take time to heal?
REPETITION HAPPENS: We’ve all encountered people who “repeat” the same patterns over and over.
SERIAL DATER? Perhaps you’ve encountered this person? He or she is the quintessential “serial dater” who dates one persona after another, remains in the relationship up to a certain point, then finds a reason to break it off, only to do it all over again! And no matter how good or rewarding the relationship was, he or she is almost always faulting it or criticizing it, and feeling unsatisfied and in need of something else.
SERIAL ACCIDENTS/INCIDENTS? Or, perhaps you’ve encountered this person? He or she can’t get out of his or her own way! They’re always getting into trouble! One week it’s a car accident, the next it’s an argument with the boss or a legal problem or another mishap! No matter what, they’re almost always in a compromised state of mind, worried or anxious, unsatisfied, in need of help or assistance.
REPETITION IN THERAPY: Repetition also takes place in the therapy setting. In fact, repetition is a necessary part of a good therapy experience. A patient may repeat certain feelings, certain states of mine, and even certain behaviors over the course of the treatment. A patient may, for example, repeat to the therapist many times over the course of the treatment that she feels misunderstood. Or that he feels others take advantage of him.
WHY REPEAT? Repetition is meaningful in 2 specific ways:
- Repetition of painful or distressing feelings or states provides many opportunities to be understood by the therapist. Much of therapy is an attempt to be deeply understood. Repetition fits this purpose as it is the striving to be deeply understood.
- Since another important part of being in therapy includes growing and developing a strong and competent self that does not need to succumb to painful feelings all the time, repetition provides many opportunities to try to override or to master these feelings. Repetition offers numerous chances to try to master and overcome what is distressing and painful.
REPETITION IS KEY TO HEALING: We can see how repetition offers the chance to feel deeply understood, and also the opportunity to overcome or master trauma and emotional pain.
REPETITION AND TIME: Since repetition can only happen over time, we now understand why healing and recovery takes time. Time allows for needed repetition. So, the next time you find yourself wondering why therapy takes time, you’ll understand about the need for repetition.
CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR OWN REPETITIVE BEHAVIORS OR THOUGHTS? If you find yourself in a cycle of repetition, perhaps this blog will help illuminate what is underlying your repetitions. If you’re in pain or feeling depression or anxiety from unknown sources, perhaps it’s linked to the repetition or to the trauma that underlies it. With the help of a skilled therapist, you may find some relief, and enable yourself to disembark from the cycle of repetition.