Thursday, December 4, 2014


This blog entry is intentionally brief. It contains a simple concrete suggestion that is very symbolic in its purpose and potentially multi-layered in its impact. Hopefully, as a reader, you do not find it simplistic.
Whenever my patients use the word "but" in the narrative that describes their thoughts and feelings I encourage them to substitute the word "and". "But" is a word that tens to negate or diminish what preceded it, whereas "and" connotes inclusiveness and coexistence. My intention is to help my clients develop an inner landscape wherein conflictual, sometimes polar opposite, thoughts and feelings can be contained with less tension and more respectful coexistence.
Some examples. Often my patients say,"I feel like I did a good job, but …." and then give a list of reasons why it was not perfect. The positive feeling gets negated or diminished by whatever follows after "but". Other clients describing a spouse/lover/friend say "I love/like ___ but …." and then tell about some annoying or hated characteristics or opposite feelings. Again the love/like gets lost or weakened by the litany of complaints.
Usually I will encourage my patients to substitute "and" for "but" by saying to themselves "I did a good job and I could also have …." as away of counteracting the inner notion That I can't feel good about what I've done unless it lives up to perfectionistic standards. I recommend to other patients to say to themselves "I love my lover/spouse/friend and I hate when he …." as a way of acknowledging and honoring the coexistence of opposite feelings about the same person.
Gradually the use of this simple substitution - in conjunction with our deeper work -becomes a useful tool to expand their capacity to have many complex feelings coexisting within their consciousness.