Friday, September 14, 2018

The Doughnut theory of life. A brief reflection on psychotherapy.

With all respect to mrs Gump, life does not resemble a box of chocolates. Life is more like a doughnut. What makes a piece of bakery a doughnut? The hole in the middle. 

This post owes much to the rich symbolic language of astrology, perhaps the oldest form of psychology. Readers familiar with astrology will recognise Saturn. Every human life has a basic lack, an area of insecurity, a place where things do not  flow effortlessly. Nobody, even the person with the most charmed life, gets it all. Such is the human condition. 

Jane has security and a happy family but suffers from ill health. Peter  has been blessed with a robust constitution, makes a good living with enjoyable work, but suffers from loneliness.  Paul lives perpetually on the edge of financial ruin with all the stress that entails. Mary has a good life now but is haunted by demons from earlier trauma. John seemingly has it all but can find no meaning to life, feels hollow inside and takes to drugs. And so on in endless variations. That place of lack is the hole in the doughnut.
That is all obvious and what does it  have to do with psychotherapy?

Disclaimer first. I am content with my life and have never felt the need for therapy.  I have no right to judge people who benefit from it and that is not the intention here. This critical reflection refers to excess.  
I have been preoccupied with questions of scale and balance lately, perhaps in reaction to the increasing polarisation of public discourse. Criticising the excess of a thing is not the same as criticising the thing itself.  It appears one has to spell that out. 

It seems to me that, like many good things, therapy can be overdone. People can get stuck in it. This is where the doughnut hole comes in. 
“Know thyself “ has been sound advice for a long time. Knowing oneself requires a good look at the troubled place within. We all have one. But therapy can get people to spend too much time looking at the hole in the doughnut of life. The client may end up identifying with the hole, spending precious time and life energy mapping the exact shape and size of the hole, socialising with people with similar holes, feeling  misunderstood by anyone whose inner empty spot has another shape. 

Yes,  the inner void demands to be acknowledged. There may be a time for therapy, and a time to gain support from others with a similar life wound.

 But after a good look at the doughnut hole I would rather focus on the cake. 

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