We all have a healthy, constructive part of our mind, and an unhealthy, destructive part. It is on the basis of your healthy side that you have decided to have, or are contemplating having therapy. As an ISTDP therapist I will take an active role in aligning myself with the healthy part of you that wants to make positive changes in your life. I can help you to identify, understand the origin of and stop the psychological defences that cause you suffering and limit your happiness.
Defences ensure you remain disconnected from the full extent of your feelings and, therefore, limit the emotional intimacy you experience with yourself and in your relationships. They include: Ignoring, neglecting, dismissing and minimising your feelings and the physiological symptoms of your anxiety; compliance and pleasing behaviour – putting others first whilst not honouring your own needs, values, opinions and longings; thought processes such as perfectionism, self-doubt, self-blame, obsessive worry and rumination, self-devaluation/attack; addiction behaviours, self-harm, helplessness and passivity, venting, shouting, attacking and blaming others.
ISTDP has its roots in psychodynamic psychotherapy. Therefore, it places a strong emphasis on understanding the origins of your emotional problems. Even loving parents are often not able to help their children develop in the way they would have wanted, because of their own emotional restrictions and limitations. I tell my clients that it will hurt the same if someone stands on your toe purposefully or by mistake. Without seeking to blame we will identify the unhelpful developmental experiences that play a role in your current emotional problems.
ISTDP is an emotion focused therapy. In early development our survival is dependent on the enduring attachment bond with our caregiver(s). Feelings become unconsciously linked with fear when they threaten the continuity of this vital connection. The fear response to an internal feeling that threatens our attachment bond is called anxiety. If you were not supported to experience any of your core emotions, for example to cry when you were saddened by loss, to feel angry and set healthy boundaries when you experienced others as judgemental or controlling, or to feel happy when you were successful, then you will unconsciously use defences to block the full extent of your feelings.
ISTDP is unique in its emphasis on learning to monitor and regulate your physiological symptoms of anxiety. At lower to mid-range levels anxiety is experienced in the striated muscles as bodily tension, and in the sympathetic nervous system with symptoms such as dry mouth, dry throat and changes in body temperature. Higher parasympathetic symptoms of anxiety are nausea, acid reflux and jelly (weak) legs. The highest anxiety symptoms disrupt our thought processes, vision and hearing, for example foggy thinking, racing thoughts, blurred or tunnel vision, ringing ears and dissociative experiences. By closely monitoring your moment-to-moment anxiety responses together in your sessions we can assure that your therapy proceeds at the right pace and moves in the right direction. Anxiety is a healthy fear response to emotions that you learned could disrupt the early attachment bond with your caregiver(s). Therefore, it will serve you as an invaluable guiding light in your therapy.
We are all motivated to have loving, intimate relationships, and to be fulfilled in our lives. However, to some degree everyone learns to unconsciously block anxiety-evoking feelings with defences. ISTDP can help you become the expert on your internal experience. In an environment of safety you can make contact with the feelings that were once a threat to your most important relationships and, therefore, cause you anxiety. You can then stop using self-defeating defences and become more free to live the life you want.