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What is 'Meaningful Therapy'?

By ‘Meaningful Therapy’, I am referring to those therapies that enable you to gain insight into the root causes of your difficulties, while also giving you the ability to change the core meaning that those insights hold, so that they no longer direct your behaviour. Current neuroscientific research shows that the majority of our brain’s processes happen outside of our awareness. Although it feels as if we are choosing every action we take, the decision to act is actually happening in our brains before we consciously know we’ve made that decision. And that unconscious decision is being driven by the, also unconscious, expectations that our brain holds about what is going to happen next and the best thing to do about it. So Meaningful Therapy aims to bring these unconscious expectations and predictions, often learned many years ago, into conscious awareness so that they can now be understood in light of your present day circumstances and then updated if necessary. For most areas of our lives, these unconscious and automatic processes make our brain’s functioning very efficient – we wouldn’t want to be aware of every analysis and adjustment that our brain is making. But sometimes, often because of intensely challenging or prolonged difficult experiences, quite often in our childhood, our brain lays down beliefs about ourselves, other people and the world and develops rigid predictions about what will happen next and how to respond to that. Despite our life circumstances now being different, our brain still directs our responses, albeit based on out-of-date assumptions. It is not unusual, however, for people to come into therapy believing that nothing extreme has ever happened in their lives. However, with patient, compassionate exploration, they usually find that loneliness, perfectionism, shame, oppression, rigidity or lack of full parental attention, for example, had indeed been features of their younger lives. Sometimes people are fully aware of challenging life experiences but feel that they have already been 'dealt with', only to find that these experiences had been suppressed and are actually still influencing them today. And this is a key point of therapy - The way we deal with life is often being directed by beliefs we learned in our past about how the world works and the best way to deal with it to be safe. But these beliefs are not conscious to us - our protective system has hidden them from us. Therefore when our world changes, as it does as we move through life, and those beliefs are are not updated, they will continue to guide our behaviours and feelings throughout our lives. This may be in subtle, inconsequential ways or, for some of us, in very harmful or life-restricting ways. It is worth highlighting that, whilst this is a ‘talking therapy’, you will not be asked to just re-tell your life story in detail. Whilst this can be of some benefit, it will not create the change you are looking for. Instead, we will be exploring your emotional life and gently uncovering your 'hidden' knowledge around your unwanted behaviours – because when we do, we will see that your addictive and compulsive behaviour actually makes perfect sense. Then we can begin to bring the inner conflict to a halt and start to bring harmony and ease to your inner system. From this point, your system can start to let go of the compulsive behaviours as it will recognise that they are no longer necessary or helpful. Some people might prefer not to do this sort of work when life is really spiralling out of control and they don’t feel safe with their thoughts and feelings. If this is the case for you, you might benefit from other therapies such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) or DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy). While these approaches are less targeted at understanding the root of our behaviours, they can teach valuable strategies for regulating and counteracting our feelings or even for overriding them. In moments of intense emotion, this can be effective to stop us from causing ourselves more difficulties. Knowing that we have some skills to prevent more harm and to live in a more orderly way can help us to feel more in control so that we can then go on to do the deeper forms of therapy and healing work later. Please click the 'Making the Most of Therapy' tab and go to 'Other Resources' for more information. I hope this has been a helpful introduction into how Meaningful Therapy works so that you can start to imagine if it would be helpful for you. If you have any questions, or if you would like to arrange an introductory call, please contact me and I will get back to you as soon as I am able.

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