It’s been called ‘therapy wars’: the Freudian psychoanalysts have been trying to win back ground taken by the newer upstart, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which has become the standard treatment for everything from anxiety and depression to procrastination.
CBT is considered by its detractors to be something of a quick fix, and one that is overly simplistic. Unhappiness, for example, is caused by irrational beliefs, and once we see those beliefs for what they are, they disappear, and we’re happy.
The Freudians argue that things aren’t that easy: you can’t escape your past without a great deal more insight and struggle. There’s also the strange, contradictory and idiosyncratic nature of our mind that often seeks out what is not always the best for us. Our conscious mind is only the tip of a giant iceberg, with our unconscious being the real controller.
It’s an interesting debate, but the two therapies—and indeed any psychological therapy—make the fundamental mistake that the patient is an autonomous entity who happens to have anger issues, for instance. The person can work on his or her issues and improve.
It’s not an issue of ownership: I don’t have anger issues—the anger issues are me. There is absolutely no difference between the energy of anger and you, a construct that is created by the energy itself. First is the anger, and the energy creates an ‘I’ who owns the anger. Any attempt to improve or change the situation is an extension of the original energy itself.
Although these therapies can modify behaviour, true transformation comes about when we clearly see these processes at play.