“The real voyage of discovery is not to find new territories, but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of hundreds of others: to observe the hundred universes that each of them observes, that each of them is.”

Marcel Proust

The therapeutic model that made us fall in love is like a door separating two times:

  • this way, our yesterday;
  • beyond the door in lush, fertile soil, our today as therapists and species.

YESTERDAY…

“Yesterday” is the legacy of an approach rooted in human history: for millennia, everything we could not explain to ourselves was seen as the child of something supernatural, mystical – either divine or demonic – and later pathological.

Everything that human beings did not recognize as normal, familiar and known became a source of terror, including diversity, in all its forms and natures, which in fact for centuries and centuries was seen as deviance.

“Different” has long been synonymous with wrong: physical, motor, mental, emotional, and thought diversities were a source of stigma, when not persecution, as Marina Cuollo – a fierce activist on several fronts and territories (not only in the field of ability and related) – recounts in her hilarious “A Disabilandia si tromba,” Sperling & Kupfer.

“They don’t kill us anymore, but sometimes it hurts just the same.”

Marina Cuollo

Different = unknown.

Unknown = potentially dangerous.

Precisely because of this, the discomforts of the psychoemotional sphere have long been (and unfortunately sometimes still are) stigmatized: until less than two centuries ago – a whisker compared to our history as human beings – with the so-called “sick“, or rather with the “alienated,” there was no alternative but internment.

Materdomini Psychiatric Hospital, on the border between Upper Ncera and Roccapiemonte (Salerno, Italy), before being converted into a group home by director Pasquale Palumbo, in a stock image. (Ansa photo by Luigi Pepe)

The diagnosis left no escape: the alienated, literally already far from the “norm,” and alien to the rules of the world, had to be removed from civilization, through forced confinement in so-called “asylums”, much like the set of a modern horror movie.

The birth of the scientific method, and the subsequent evolution of medicine, gradually erased the figure of the alienist, leading us within a few decades to classify emotional distress and consequently the people who were affected by it.

Classical psychoanalysis and the theories that took hold from it begin to analyze the psyche.

They study it. They schematize it. They simplify and codify it.

Having defined what they think is right to feel, to try, to do, every other possible variation is framed as pathological.

A year after the death of the founder of psychoanalysis, (Sept. 23, 1939), John Bowlby published “The Influence of Early Environment in the Development of the Neurosis and Neurotic Character”: this is the first time in human history that neuroses are associated with specific environmental factors, particularly separation from the mother during the first years of life.

With this article, and subsequent studies and publications, Bowlby seeds the concept of attachment, which in the following three books begins to take root.

  • “Attachment and Loss. Attachment to the Mother,” 1969
  • “Attachment and Loss. Separation from the mother,” 1972
  • “Attachment and Loss. The Loss of the Mother,” 1980.

Bowlby sows our present, the same lush and fertile soil “watered” by the founder of Emotionally Focused Therapy, who through her studies and research, led us to the door that separates yesterday from today.

Yesterday, lots of judgments, albeit for good.
But today, only openness: attitudes that build bonds, choices that mend broken hearts, and embrace souls that had long felt “wrong,” or overwhelmed by “frightening and alien emotions”- Bowlby

This present of ours as therapists in love with Emotionally Focused Therapy is one of unconditional acceptance.
Of openness.
Of an openness that goes far beyond the concept of “inclusion.”
In the etymological and therefore literal sense, “to include” means to close in, inevitably leaving the rest out.

The key to getting through the door and thus accessing the fertile ground of Emotionally Focused Therapy is acceptance.
To connect with those who ask for our therapeutic support, we must learn to welcome emotions, all of them.

We must learn not to judge, that is, to welcome people, their emotions and states of mind. Including people, emotions, moods and thoughts that do not sound at all familiar to us, and even anything that appears to us to be in open conflict with our beliefs, and/or our value system. To connect with them and people before we can walk toward desired and hoped-for change.

It means opening ourselves to them, embracing what they and ourselves feel, without locking them within patterns, without labeling them, without judging them.

And then it also means, in addition to inclusion, acceptance, non-judgment, also having a map of the work in the therapeutic path, a map of the process to know precisely and specifically how to work with these alien emotions, and especially how to dance with and through them using Tango EFT….

But we will talk soon about this in a new post.

Warning.
Embracing emotions and validating them all, does not mean not recognizing the validity of any diagnoses. Or ignoring them. Nor the related discomforts.
Opening up and welcoming just means freeing ourselves from a historical legacy that is all too often judgmental, to open ourselves – finally – wide to the person in front of us, or next to us.