Psychotherapy is the practice of shifting perspectives. It is about helping clients perceive their world from a different point of view, which, if applied correctly through therapy, can help to change the perception of the individual's self, creating a more positive and productive lifestyle shift. While not every person will find the need for such an effort, many people do develop certain illogical and emotionally harmful beliefs during their formative years, mainly childhood and early adolescents. These erroneous beliefs dictate our perception of the world and, unfortunately, how we interact with and respond to those surroundings.
Past as Present
Our childhood responses to perceived threats likely influence the ability to interpret legitimate dangers as an adult because of the associative and integrated sets of ingrained beliefs formulated in youth. Therefore, current social events, workplace drama or personal crises can send some into a self-defeating frame of mind. Consequently, patients of psychotherapy must undergo emotional, behavioral and cognitive exercises to understand these childhood links and, inevitably, change the belief structure at its roots. By understanding the rationale for such illogical responses, clients can begin to form new associations and deliberately shift their focus from the past to the present, building a new framework and foundation for their emotional and behavioral responses.
Inherent Versus Learned Response
There is a misperception that emotional, behavioral and cognitive responses are somehow ingrained at birth. While some things likely are, like smiling, most social responses are learned early on in the developmental stages of an individual's life. These responses can be the things that lead to difficulties socializing or to feelings of worthlessness. Everyone is different. For example, some people respond to fear aggressively, and others withdraw and become more passive. Unfortunately, for those who assume their responses to varying situations are inherent, they might never seek the therapy necessary to correct or retrain their associations, meaning they might be stuck in a maladaptive and self-defeating mindset for their entire adult life.
Perseverance and Psychotherapy
The idea that people prefer depression over happiness is misleading and absurd. The truth is many people are not capable of changing their ingrained belief structure without the assistance of a trained professional. Unfortunately, due to unfortunate stereotypes and misinformation, many believe that admitting to the need for help is a sign of weakness or shame; nothing could be further from reality. Often the associations we make as children are so conducive to our perceptions of ourselves that the idea of changing or combating those beliefs is too far beyond our concept of possibility, and we get stuck in a cycle of emotional defense. It is only after submitting to help that we can come to realize the strength in reshaping our perspective. Therefore, it is necessary to understand that while most of our responses to environmental stimuli are learned, these responses can feel inherent, meaning that to change requires perseverance, practice and commitment, which might not be possible alone.
Therefore, shifting an individual's perspective is not easy. To transform maladaptive responses and self-defeating behaviors, it is necessary to facilitate shifts in adopted childhood and adolescent beliefs, which are often so ingrained that they feel natural. While some might try to change this behavior on their own, the most productive individuals are those who submit and commit to the assistance of a trained psychotherapist who promotes recognition of negative responses and practice of self-awareness in the present and not the past.