Recently I came across a best-selling psychology textbook, and I believe the sections of it dealing with the essentials of self-awareness are not accessing a deep enough level of understanding.
The widely used textbook, written by three Harvard University professors of psychology, is titled simply Psychology (Worth Publishers, New York, 2009). Students pay $152.48 for the latest edition of this textbook. They’re not getting their money’s worth, and I’ll tell you why.
In this textbook, the authors express their preference for cognitive therapy. (They subtly—and not so subtly—disparage psychodynamic therapy which is based on depth psychology.) Cognitive therapy, they say, “focuses on helping a client identify and correct any distorted thinking about self, others, or the world.” The key term here is “distorted thinking.” Who decides what constitutes distorted thinking? Sure, if you’re thinking about murdering someone or jumping off a cliff, that’s obviously wrong-headed. But most people who go to psychotherapists don’t need someone telling them what or how to think. Rather, they need help in discovering their inner truth and developing their authentic self.
The best psychotherapists don’t mess with this notion of distorted thinking. We don’t deal in “cognitive restructuring,” to use one of the textbook authors’ favored terms. Instead, we trace the client’s difficulties back to the source, using as clues the memories and occurrences associated with the client’s anxiety, stress, painful emotions, and self-defeating behaviors. We’re guides for the exploration of their unconscious mind. We don’t tell them what to believe or what to think, although we do introduce basic principles and knowledge for them to consider.
Let’s compare the two approaches, cognitive therapy and psychodynamic therapy, using an example from the textbook. [Read more…]