The therapy lab in a nutshell
We are going to explore how consciousness shapes our experiences into a story. This story manifests in several ways, namely:
- In our body as an embodiment.
- In time, through the personal experience of time.
- Through bonding with the so-called transitional objects
- In the world as in the theory of the extended mind
Our consciousness manifests itself as a story
The focus in therapy is always a story. The therapy starts with a story, goes through several storylines, and ends with a revisited story. A story is only a story if it can be told. (See also this blog here.) Before a story can be told in such a way that it is accessible to the listener, each story goes through a process of reviewing and editing. Stories are much more than just the work of the original narrator. Going into therapy means the willingness to have our personal story reviewed and edited so that it can be heard (in a different way). Heard in such a way that the narrator knows for sure that her initial message is processed and understood and the context is situated in the real world (reality tests and ability to put things into perspective).
Consciousness determines our awareness of space and time
Our consciousness is an instrument that allows us to focus. So in a sense, it is an instrument of selection and restriction. This means that our consciousness never reflects the complete reality. We can see consciousness like a flashlight in a semi-dark amphitheater; it can only illuminate clearly one small spot at a time. This spot then temporarily becomes our ‘everything’ though we are aware that the surroundings are there. The brightness of the flashlight determines for that moment the thoughts and emotions and even the physical sensations. When the light moves to another place, this new mini-theatre temporarily becomes the all-determining factor of our physical feelings, our emotions, and our thoughts. The way in which our attention is “captured” by consciousness also gives a time experience, that time experience is personal and relative, it rarely corresponds to the clock time. This relative experience of time and this reduced space will determine the structure of our story.
The personal story in the world
Each of us keeps an encyclopedia and a dictionary of personal making as a backup. The image of the flashlight described above might make us think that consciousness can illuminate completely uninhibited. Nothing could be further from the truth. The consciousness of every human being is already enriched with information. Our consciousness is closely related to our memory and can connect with memories at any given moment. Therefore our story is already colored with all kinds of data from our personal lives as well as elements from our family history, our country, our culture, and our language. The story is thus a story of our identity.
In addition, we are aware of a large amount of information that we store outside our memory, for example in books, on the phone, or on the computer. This aspect is reflected in the theory of the extended mind. We know much more than we can reproduce directly from our own memory. In this way, we also know that there is an objective passage of time, independent of our subjective experience. This factor contributes to the content of our story.
Embodiment, the story in our body
Where our consciousness, our thoughts, and our creativity can let us ‘rise’ above the physical level, we are inextricably connected to our body. We live in our body and we cannot tell our story without our body. The term embodiment is a summary term for the idea that all our thoughts and stories are formed in and with the body (embodied cognition), as well as for the idea that therapy has a rewarding point of reference to the body (embodied imagination). The body seeks acceptance and trust in the world, the basis for our self-confidence. The embodiment determines the flow in our story.
The main characters in our story
A human story is almost always expressed in the first-person mode. Yet we don’t exclusively talk about ourselves. From our earliest development, we have attached ourselves to the world through so-called transitional objects. Transitional objects are objects (cuddly toys in childhood), people, families, and institutions (such as a club or a school) through which we can attach ourselves to a ‘smaller world’. In the course of our lives, transitional objects become increasingly ‘larger’ and more complex (religion, science). In childhood, we can share our joys and sorrows with the transitional object. In adult life, this is more complex and the development of the person is often difficult without understanding this -biological- structure. In therapy, characters or groups will emerge that have to do with this need for bonding within us. In the picture, the red owl represents a transitional object. In a personal story, this will often be a companion or partner.
When we try to make a synthesis, a map of this therapeutic laboratory, we recognize the areas that we have discussed separately. But we also notice that when everything comes to us at once, our attention swings between the left and the right and between above and below. As in any schematic representation of us, our minds do understand the representation but we never really feel it as being us. That is why therapy is so important. Just as a music sheet does not equal performance but is an unavoidable start, once mastered we will also walk out of this therapy laboratory scheme as a unique individual, more human, more connected to the world, and thus a better performer.
All images: Copyright © 2019 Travel and Therapy. All rights reserved.
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