A very broad range of modalities or schools of thought are included under the banner of psychodynamic psychotherapy. Some of these will be familiar to the lay-person. Some are more obscure. All share a common factor that The Canadian Association for Psychodynamic Therapy describes in this way:
"The psychodynamic approach to therapy understands that unconscious dynamics exist within the normal human consciousness and that it is possible, in therapy, to engage many aspects of the psyche in ways that are useful, creative and healing."
Put in simpler terms, most of us are familiar with the old adage that we only use about 10% of our brains at any one time. With the different levels of consciousness that we now understand are at play, it is more likely that all of us have a lot more going on behind the scenes than was once commonly thought.
So how do we know this to be true? Where is the evidence? Here is a very simple and mundane example that illustrates how the unconscious is at work. You are walking home from work or school. You take the same route you always take. Your attention is diverted by thoughts of how the day went at work or school or you may be thinking about responsibilities awaiting you at home. Perhaps you're listening to your favorite music on your earphones. Before you know it, you find yourself at your own front door with little or no recollection of the journey. Frightening as it may sound, this is a common occurrence during highway driving with regular commuters.
Somehow, you made it home. You navigated crossing busy streets. You didn't walk (or drive!) into any lamp posts or fire hydrants. You didn't bump into other pedestrians, yet you have no conscious memory of the trip. That is your conscious and unconscious mind at work or, rather, at play. Because you followed a predictable path, it was not necessary for your mind to consciously register the journey. But your unconscious mind does hold the memory of your travels.
If anything unexpected had occurred, your mind would have responded by making a conscious note of it and this picture would look different. You would hold on to it in a more active way. But because you followed a routine, it was not necessary for your mind to keep the images present for you in the same way.
Here is another common, and often frustrating, example. How often do you find yourself stuck in the middle of a sentence because you can't think of a specific word? It may be a person's name or a term that would fit the moment just perfectly but it completely escapes you. You dwell on this for a few moments and it bothers you quite a bit. A short time later, the conversation has moved on to a completely different topic and, all of a sudden, the very word you were searching for pops into your head. Now where did that come from?
Like our thoughts, our feelings and even our physical state of being are constantly affected by different levels of consciousness that we can't directly perceive. Psychodynamic therapy provides a safe space where we can seek out what is active but hidden inside. We can come to an understanding and appreciation of the role these feelings and memories play in our daily lives.
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