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Insight Essays for Therapy CBT
This paper was written to show the technique of self-reflection exercises in therapy. The client should write out their major life events as they see them, but in a reflective style to analyse their self image, as part of how they see their life. The therapist in turn can use this type of self-reflecting essay to understand the clients thought processes and perhaps an insight into faulty thinking and behavioural adaptations to life events. The following essay is a true story and in the clients own words. As a therapist or someone interested in psychological thought process and analysis the reader should stay emotionally removed in the first reading. By this I mean read as if you are trying to understand the life-story of the client. In a second reading you should look for the significance in the writer’s comments and thought processes. Therapists, counsellors and psychologists may then try to answer the question of how they would treat this client if he came to them for help in understanding his behaviour over the years and how he could seek a more stable life-style. The names of the real people have been removed and substitutes inserted with some re-writing for clarity by the author.
Self Reflections of Love and Suffering
Two thoughts have crossed my mind in the last few days that I feel I should commit to paper before they scatter from my mind like leaves in an autumn wind. The first is my language – it came to me that when I was younger I had two fears about language the first being I could not spell very well and tended to be forced to write a short word that I was confident with, rather than a long word that expressed my meaning better but was fearful that I misunderstood its true meaning or that I could not pronounce or write it correctly. The second was in my speech, I knew I wanted to express myself in extended words but again used restricted language to talk. I knew the words but were afraid to speak them in case I appeared foolish or beyond my station. I think the timidity of language came about because I always felt I was special in someway over those people that I associated with. I think therefore I talked my language down in order to fit in with those who seemed to be my acquaintances. As time has gone by and my education has expanded by University and life experience, I now use longer words and more expressive ones than in my youth. However as a teacher I have always had the knack of talking to students at their level just as I did when young to my friends and associates of the time. I learned journalism when in my early twenties and it taught me to write short sentences with no adjectives or flourish of language, but to tell the story straight forwardly and clear. Later when I become a teacher this helped me to write better papers that expressed my meaning without opinion of fancy. I start this paper with this insight as an example of quiet suffering in life. What follows then is the suffering at the hands of love and relationships.
The second thoughts were about suffering. I have known two women in my life for a long period of time. Millicent my first wife and Joslin my long term partner, both I loved in my fashion but in these relationships I now think maybe I suffered for a long time without being able to articulate exactly why to myself. I as married to Millicent when we were both 20 years old, (for 10 years) in which time she bore me two daughters. Her family were low working class and she herself was very traditional of that society. Her siblings thought of me as pretentious as I wore a tie and sometimes talked about ambition, to which they connected to an inflated ego and talking beyond my station in life. (That is a peculiar way of saying this today but that is exactly how it felt to me at the time). I too come from a working class family but of a higher status in that my parents read, were home owners, had travelled around the world, my father was a veteran of WW11 and my mother an accomplished writer in her day.
Although by the time I had grown to realise my parent’s characters, all this was unknown to me and as a youth I had little interest in my parents as do most boys. So why do I say suffering – maybe because I stayed and put up with the place in life that Millicent and her family deemed was suitable for me. The working in retail or sales, the home owner with the mortgage, the two little girls we brought into the world ( my one great delight as they are now grown women and have turned out so well – despite me abandoning them so young.) Later when I went into business for myself with the help of my eldest brother, Jake, I started to break away from the family (my own family) in that I became dissatisfied with my life. Dissatisfied with my future, I felt trapped by my marriage and obligation. I asked my wife for a divorce not with a long thinking process, but almost on a whim, of a time of thoughtlessness and partly to be free. Free to do what exactly I was not sure. Later while going through the divorce I met Joslin. She was from a small village and an insular family with little education or accomplishments. She was seven years younger than me and apart from one liaison with a cousin had no real life experience. However she was far more intelligent than Millicent and far more challenging to me.
Joslin in many ways was perfect for me. We came to believe in many of the same things, we both enjoyed reading, discussing and the country life of walking and nature. Later we became vegetarian’s together and animal activists in the sense of our beliefs about animal welfare. However two areas caused vexation and heartache. The first was sexual. Joslin suffered from deep depression, a lack of self-worth and appreciation of her own talents and skills. This caused in turn, her to feel that she was unlovable and could never understand my devotion to her. I loved her deeply for many years (we were together for 18) and worshipped her almost daily. This is not to say we did not argue or have unhappy moments, but over-all we were happy with each other most of the time. Sexually she was not as needy as me. I wanted sex regularly and with some variety in what we did. However it soon came to pass that sex was only on the menu when she was able to face it. She often associated sex with keeping me happy and not something she did for her own pleasure or satisfaction.
It is ironic that in the last months of our relationship she became very sexual indeed. Maybe she unknowingly was having her menopause and found at last her sexuality and wanted to be loved with passion for the first time and more importantly for herself. The second area was a lack of faith by her in me. I had took too many risks with our future in the sense of money, jobs and getting myself into troubles mainly through my weakness to help others and my lack of respect for authority. Even to this day I hate working for others or being at someone’s call or expectations. I prefer to be free but his has a high cost which tends to be in security and lack of a meaningful relationship. Maybe this desire for freedom is merely my way for avoiding responsibility but now I am philosophising and looking for excuses rather than reality of the situations.
So why did I start this essay with the words suffering? I think that is what my life felt like, first with Millicent as I suffered the humility of having to kow-tow to her family, their prejudicial small mindedness and finally to the realisation that I was wasting my life and giving up my chance to fulfil what ever life was waiting for me to do. I expect a man like me in the past would have talked about God’s destiny for me or a conviction that I was meant to do something great in life. Money has never meant more to me than a means to survive and eat. Food is the same, I eat to live and not live to eat. So many people talk of happiness and money in the same breath, but I have never thought this way. Money is just useful but not essential. People talk of food as something gourmet, something almost religious but to me it is just sustenance, something to enjoy at the moment but not talk about or obsess about to others. I cook for myself as it is expedient and less expensive than eating out. Even the best restaurant in the world is still just a place to eat. So how did my suffering continue after Millicent and onto Joslin?
This is more complex as when I met Joslin I was in my 30’s and more aware of myself. I was still in the ambitious stage of my growth and wanted to succeed in my work but still I had a huge hole in my emotions about my future. I always wanted to be famous, as a writer, singer or movies star perhaps, but was this just the normal way everyone thinks and it part of the envy that society puts upon the majority that will never have these moments. It explains the popularity of reality shows, TV talent shows and the like. They give the conceited and the dreamers a chance to realise that fame – even if short lived and often leading to gross unhappiness. However fame for me was not in that way, it was a fame of recognition, a fame of doing something important, something momentous, being a hero, saying something in writing perhaps that stuns the world. This is the fame I sought – in fact still seek. Joslin in the beginning and for many years gave me the faith to try, to study, to strive to achieve. Even when things went badly wrong, scandal, bankruptcy, loss – she still stood by my side through the hard times and we still wanted to be together. As I write these words about Joslin, I realise what a great loss to my life she is now that we are apart and no longer part of each others lives as we once were. However this article is about suffering – suffering in my mind and heart – suffering in my very essence. I must have loved Joslin immensely for I stayed with her through years of depression on her part, the moods, the crying, and the sense of worthlessness she endured.
Yet I never really felt I had reason to complain, she was in every way my partner, my life, my need and my supporter. The reader may ask how such a great love came to be abandoned by me so easily in the end. The answer is partly distance and partly my own need for attention, love and a re-awakening of someone to respect me again. I feel I wore Joslin out in that respect, she had been through too many tough times, to many times she had to support me, believe in me when I let her down by my character of taking risks, of being to trusting, of putting others needs before hers or my own. Alas I feel I broke her faith in me – she started to look at me with less than belief and with less than faith, with less respect.
I know this was my fault. I do not blame her at all. Even though I suffered for her over the years in supporting her bouts of depression, her devotion to her worthless brother, (who often took her money and lied daily to her about most things) her vindictive relatives and the lack of loving from her in the form of sexuality and simple words. To hear her say she loved me was the one thing I prayed for most of the 18 years we were together. To hear those words kept me going. I would have suffered any torment to know her feelings to me. The problem with reminiscing is that one cannot remember clearly all those times she may have told me sweet things as they are covered by the longer days of suffering with her disposition towards life and me. In the latter years she went to University and a great change came over her in many respects. She gained new confidence, began to realise she was smarter than many on her course, and of course she was a student now in her forties and therefore understood the value of the education she was receiving and the wealth in the chance to regain what in youth she had lost in chances.
Today I have been in China for over five years, mostly alone but in a few steady relationships that never really lasted very long. For the past year I have been with a young girl named Elle (Chinese) who I have come to love as you would a child who needs a father. I know the relationship is doomed, our ages are too different, our views are poles apart, and she has the arrogance of youth within her and does not yet see that even the wisest man can be wrong. I cannot fulfil her traditional need for security, wealth and family standing that in China is essential to their feelings of insecurity and need for social acceptance. However for now she provides me with some freedom and a sense of companionship that I feel I need. I like being alone but not lonely. I realise I need women, for sex, for companionship, for self-esteem and finally for my feelings of self-worth. An adoring woman satisfies my need to be wanted, to be looked up too and to be seen as someone important at least to them.
The future is hard to foresee now. I have started a business in China and have many friends here, more than in England. I do not miss England or the people very much. I would like to see my daughters more often but they have a good life of their own and I am not the most attentive father to them. I do feel I need to establish a more firm relationship with a woman – if only to feel secure in myself about the future. I ask myself could I go home to Joslin, throw myself on her mercy, ask her to forgive my absence and be with me once more. I think that is now too late, she is settled in her new life, she has grown confident, and has her education and her freedom. She may be lonely at times but she would see my return not as something wonderful but as a burden and a return to uncertainty. No – I could not ask her to do that for me even if it was something I wanted desperately to do. Why would I go back anyway it would only be to acknowledge another failure in my life? I have started to publish many papers and people are reading my works. Some are about teaching and some about my travels around the world. Maybe the fame I have been seeking all my life is here and now. Maybe just around the next corner is the adoration I always wanted from others? The reality I fear now is that in fact like others before me that I want an end to the suffering of life. The suffering of being with other people. Do not misunderstand I do not want to run away from life or the world but merely to finally find my place. To have a legacy that I can look at and think proudly of myself.
I finish this paper with a thought. I am an optimist and an extrovert, I like admiration and I like freedom to express myself, whether I be right or wrong is not important but the right to say and write what I think and not care about “them” those dissenters of free-thinking who see people like me as dangerous because I do not follow their neat rules and conventions in life. Show me a rule book and I will show you another person’s fear.
This paper as the abstract suggested was written for the purpose of showing an example of self-reflection essays written by a client in therapy as a technique to help the client to focus on their life and the major events that shaped their behaviour today. It is envisaged that trainee therapists, counsellors and psychologists will be able to use this exercise to widen their analytical skills and analysis. Experienced trainers and supervisors may find the content useful to print for classes and work-shops in which to help trainees have a real-life case study to analyses and dissect.
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