Last time, I discussed the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Once you understand that relationship, it’s important to realize that merely analyzing and talking about thoughts, feelings, and behaviors rarely change them.
Why Conventional Therapy Falls Short
Most of the clients I’ve seen over the years who had endured long-term therapy were not told at the start of therapy that it wouldn’t take them to the finish line. Surprisingly, their well-meaning psychotherapists were likely limited by the same paradigm that blinded my nutrition professors, so they didn’t know better. The psychotherapists who have referred many of their clients to me confirmed that they were trained to invest too much time and attention in their clients’ personal narratives. As a result, they wander into the proverbial weeds to meet their clients and can’t find their way out. They confessed that this is one unfortunate reason why countless people waste months or years in talk therapy exploring their feelings and engaging in historical conjecture. There is a place in this world for lengthy talk therapy, as long as the clients are made aware that it may not, by itself, be transformational.
These clients realized after our transformational work that talk therapy was helpful up to a point, but not necessary. The key to resolving a presenting challenge or problem is to unlearn or relearn the associations or perceptions that birthed it, regardless of its perceived origin. Once you accept that fact, you have found a major shortcut towards solving the problem.
Speaking of weeds, consider this very useful metaphor. Imagine a garden overrun with weeds. If you want to eliminate them, you have several options. One would be to analyze the weeds – label the species, speculate about where the weeds came from, discuss the impact on the garden as a whole, study the growth pattern, and consider what might happen if nothing changes. Many people find this approach reminiscent of talk therapy that drags on for months or years. While it may be very interesting and enlightening, you still have a growing weed. After all, mere revelation seldom leads to resolution, because conscious analysis or understanding does not transform subconscious imprints.
Another option is to use an herbicide. While it might kill some of the weeds, it will also poison the surrounding flowers and soil. That is an analogy for using toxic or addictive psychiatric medications with undesirable side effects. Yet another option is to continually trim the weeds or step on them. This is analogous to willpower-based behavior modification, such as dieting. If this last approach were actually effective, I might still be a nutritionist.
In all of these cases, the roots of the weed remain hidden beneath the surface, so the weed will continue to grow. If you want to remove weeds from your garden, don’t analyze them, poison them, or trim them. Pull them out by the roots. It’s much simpler, faster, safer, and easier.
In the next article, I’ll explore the process of discovering those roots and share an example of a client whose story illustrates how uprooting the weed is the most efficient way to remove it from the garden.