I was reading a book on the train this morning about Kleinian psychotherapy*. The book contains case studies by various Kleinian psychotherapists and in this particular case I was reading, one therapist wrote that her patient’s way of being ‘was not something he was about to give up’.
I frequently come across terms like ‘give up’, ‘relinquish’ and ‘let go of’ when reading material about ways to achieve psychic change, mostly from a psychoanalytic perspective, terms that seem to be distant relatives of ‘change’. Never really questioning their meaning, they’ve indeed become part of my therapeutic vernacular with clients but they’re invariably met with the question ‘how do I do that?’ From a psychoanalytic perspective this question could be interpreted in a number of ways, but it still has the potential to leave me stymied. I too find myself wanting to know about the how. How do we ‘let go’ of defences, ‘give up’ unhelpful patterns of behaviour, ‘relinquish’ ways of being that are problematic? Is it conscious? If it were then surely the task would be fairly straightforward. If it’s unconscious (which is more likely), do we have any say in the matter? In a parallel process I find myself wanting to know the answer to this question, just like clients might do.
The more I’ve tried to find an answer, understand it, explain it (to myself and clients), the more I’ve gotten myself caught up in a semantic minefield, never really achieving a satisfactory resolve. Halfway through my train journey this morning, I finally found comfort in reminding myself of the unconscious; that it’s not for us to know. Therefore, if ‘change’ occurs on an unconscious level, can we ever really know how it occurs, how we give some things up or let go of others? Perhaps we’re not supposed to.
With that in mind, perhaps my unconscious will let go of my semantic battle. I shall have to wait and see.
* Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in the Kleinian Tradition edited by Stanley Ruszczynski & Sue Johnson
Dr Anna Butcher