The Psychoanalytic Experience
By Michael Guy Thompson, PhD
The psychoanalytic experience is as unique and as broad as the people who participate in it. The feeling of being connected, the freedom to say whatever one pleases, imaginative and thoughtful conjecture, intuition, dreams, worries, and passion all conspire to create a relationship, complex and always unfolding, that will lead beyond what is presumed in order to explore what is obstinately obscure and, perhaps, unknowable. The mysteries that occasion coming into one’s own, learning to tolerate limitations, while making sense of the ever-changing relationships we are embroiled in takes time, sometimes more time than we expected. Our goal is to get to the bottom of who we are, and how we got here, while trying to make ourselves at home in a world that is always, to an unexpected degree, our own making.
Psychoanalysis, whatever its frequency, whether once, twice, three times a week or more, is always a process that, once undertaken, is beyond our conscious control. Unlike therapies that focus on concrete problems to be dispensed with as expeditiously as possible, psychoanalytic therapy is about getting to know ourselves, more profoundly and deeply than any other means at our disposal. The reasons I am the way I am and the kinds of suffering I struggle with say a lot about who I am and the attitudes I have adopted about life, love, and the things I may feel are still missing. Psychoanalysis is not so much a treatment of pathology as it is an adventure, an embarkation to that puzzling world that resides deep inside our minds, in order to make that world all the more meaningful, and richer.
Psychotherapy does not pretend to erase our suffering, or even to make us whole. What it does promise is even more precious, to gain a level of self-understanding that makes me, the person embarking on this journey, the most exciting person I know. As we gain an appreciation for how we have come to be blessed with this life we find ourselves living, the more forgiving we become of our trespasses, and the more freedom we grant ourselves to simply be, who we are.
What could be more amazing than that?