A special sort of questioning happens with a depth psychotherapist. I don’t mean the easily answered questions like, “What do you do for work?” but open-ended questions designed to offer an invitation to the depths within the self and toward the unconscious.
Finding Authenticity in Depth Psychotherapy
In addition to asking more profound questions, I may not answer questions outright, which can confuse people new to this therapy. Our sessions don’t follow the socially acceptable trajectory of “Ask a question, answer the question.” That’s because the therapeutic relationship is unique. It doesn’t follow “normal” rules. I’ve personally never been too big a fan of ordinary anyway. It’s confining.
Social norms do not exist inside the consulting room, especially with psychoanalytically informed work. If you had lunch with someone who wouldn’t answer questions but instead reflected feelings and provided interpretations around your relationship with your mother regarding how you relate to food, it would be just plain weird, intrusive, and potentially intriguingly off-putting!
As noted in the example above, the questions can also be more profound than what someone is used to outside therapy. A pat answer like, “I’m fine,” in response to, “How are you?” doesn’t cut it in the consulting room. We’re aiming for depth and authenticity, which may urge you to step outside your comfort zone and even feel uncomfortable sometimes. I may also ask questions purposely geared toward creating tension, with good reason. Tension is not a bad word in the consulting room. It can be highly fruitful.
Learn to Sit with the Possibility
Some questions encourage my patients to sit with possibility as opposed to certainty. That uncertain process may feel tense, primarily if the tension arises between two opposites or two choices, but learning to hold that tension without trying to fix or solve it, is a skill worth learning, and you may find that something may happen in that space. A bubbling up from within may start to occur, call it intuition or an inner knowing, but something comes to the surface. Something deep and wise, or something primal and heretofore buried. What allowed that “something else” to bubble up was getting quiet enough for that part to speak.
Explore Your Internal Landscape
This process requires the presence of a skilled depth psychotherapist who can support the patient in navigating their inner terrain. The psychotherapist asks questions, expresses curiosity, and gently digs deeper to encourage the patient to turn inward and explore their internal landscape. The internal landscape is rich with gems. However, this process cannot be rushed and is not to be understood as happening in a short amount of time. It does indeed take an investment in oneself. Like the tortoise, slow and steady wins the race.
And like for the tortoise, the process can be a rewarding one. It won’t be like a race because the finish line is not demarcated, nor is there anyone to compete with, but what’s waiting for you on the other end is just as deserving of awards, medals, and a cheering crowd of bystanders. And may even entail a dark night of the soul, but you may be changed into a more authentic, integrated version of yourself. And it all starts with asking open-ended questions that invite you to access the depths of your being.
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