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The Bristol Psychotherapy

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opinions & onions

 

 

Following on from part one of Who Knows What to Believe we are now going to look at the world of opinions and their relation to beliefs.

 

 

The other day I was talking with a friend about what constitutes good design. In the end we concluded that good design was really a matter of opinion. In life though we often fail to remember that our opinions are just that, opinions. They are not cast iron truth nor are they statements of authority, though we like to imagine that they are. We often mercilessly beat people down with our opinions as if they were etched on tablets of stone and handed down from some higher power. This has never been more evident than on the comments section of YouTube videos! People often chime in just to tell other users that their taste in music is shit, or worse, to call them gay (why offend one person when you can offend lots)! People often feel compelled to retaliate in kind, forgetting as they do that they are likely being sucked into a battle of wills by a pubescent miscreant who, in the ‘real’ world, they would have little to do with, never mind engage in grown-up conversation about the stylistic vicissitudes of jazz!

 

 

Opinions are often their most repugnant when we have them about other people, and yet we all do it. We cannot seem to help ourselves from forming opinions about people. Perhaps opinions are nothing more than a ‘spandrel’, a by-product of our current level of intelligence. In architecture a spandrel is a triangular space that is formed out of two adjoining archways. It has no primary function; it simply exists as a consequence of something else.

 

 

The interesting thing is that when we ‘see’ people we really only ever see our opinions of people. In the world of therapy this phenomenon is known as transference. Transference can be difficult to explain but in it’s simplest sense it involves one person projecting the contents of their own psyche onto the form of another person. This happens all the time in the real world but it is especially pronounced in the close interpersonal relationship of psychotherapy. In short we only know the contents of our own minds and so we use the contents of our own minds to build composites or impressions of what we believe other people are like. In other words we rarely see each other as we are, we only see other people as we’ve ‘drawn’ them in our imaginations using parts of our own psyche and vice versa. Of course we aren’t referring to physical form here but to the impalpable attributes of identity and personality.

 

 

In therapy it is the therapist’s job to withhold his opinions to the best of his ability thereby allowing his client to project the contents of their psyche onto him. Subsequently both client and therapist can then explore the fascinating patterns within the client’s projections; these often provide an incredible insight into the client’s psyche and deeper frustrations. Often feelings that have long been suppressed - or anxieties a client has about themselves or their relationships with significant others - come right to the fore.

 

 

As emotional organisms we are highly guarded. An analogy often cited when explaining human nature is that we are like onions with layer upon layer of complex aspects to our personalities. Whether this is to imply that when you get to the centre there is nothing there, or that we stink, or that we make people cry, I will leave for your contemplation. It is true however that we surround ourselves with layer upon layer of protective ideas, opinions, behaviours and beliefs. If there were such a thing as a seed in our ‘centres’ I’m certain that that seed would be identical in everyone, and that our various attitudes and behaviours are merely the outward expressions of a protective and self-preserving drive.

 

 

In fact we stratify our acquaintances by how close to our ‘seed’, our core-of-self we have allowed them to come. Wives and best friends typically have seen the most of us and we have seen the most of them. We see them not as ‘architects’, ‘plumbers’, ‘shop-assistants’ and the like. Nor do we see them as ‘brothers’, and ‘sisters’, or any other label we care to give them, we see them as human, and we recognise their vulnerability and its likeness to our own. So why then do we struggle to recognise this vulnerability in everyone? I guess the answer is that we try to, but much of the time the protective layers and defensive strategies employed by both parties get in the way and our intentions are thus regularly thwarted.

 

 

Getting to know anyone takes time, but getting to know someone intimately takes years, even decades. Often we only feel truly close to someone when we have been with them in their tears of pain and tears of joy. The process of getting to know people involves an unusual and magical dance of trust. We take a gamble and drop one protective layer after the other and hope in quite panic not to be rejected. We silently await reciprocation and, should the reciprocation take place, we breathe a gentle sigh of relief safe in the knowledge that this other person is growing in importance and love in our eyes. With some people we can only go so far, with others we go great distances, but rarely in life do we go the whole way. This is perhaps one of the saddest things about the human condition. If only we could agree to share the truth of our fragile and vulnerable natures ours would be a world of profound love and care. Sadly this may never happen, even though from our earliest hours on this earth all each of us has ever wanted is to feel safe, cared for, respected, and loved. We all desire the same thing but we choose remarkably different ways to meet those needs, frequently trampling on the needs of others to meet our own. Hence human life is infinitely complicated and fraught with tragedy.

 

 

When it comes to our opinions - those simple sound bites of our deeper beliefs - we would be wise to identify their innately problematic nature. For we form opinions on the one hand to identify with others in an attempt to gain friendship and thus protection, yet on the other hand our opinions distance us from others and prevent the close relationships that we so dearly desire. If we don’t like someone’s opinions we would do well to attack the problem but not the person. By all means criticize someone’s thinking, and provide sounding reasoning in your criticisms, but don’t criticise the person. Remember that opinions are part of the onion; as such we should take our own opinions and the opinions of others with a pinch of salt. That is however just my opinion.

 

 

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Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

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© SEBASTIAN T. EASTWOOD-BLOOM 2018

The Bristol Psychotherapy

& Hypnotherapy Clinic

Home          Symptoms         Treatments         Reviews          About Seb          Fees          Location          Contact 

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

The Bristol Psychotherapy

& Hypnotherapy Clinic

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

© SEBASTIAN T. EASTWOOD-BLOOM 2018

Sebastian Eastwood is a psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, and counsellor in full-time private practice in Bristol, UK.

opinions & onions

 

 

Following on from part one of Who Knows What to Believe we are now going to look at the world of opinions and their relation to beliefs.

 

 

The other day I was talking with a friend about what constitutes good design. In the end we concluded that good design was really a matter of opinion. In life though we often fail to remember that our opinions are just that, opinions. They are not cast iron truth nor are they statements of authority, though we like to imagine that they are. We often mercilessly beat people down with our opinions as if they were etched on tablets of stone and handed down from some higher power. This has never been more evident than on the comments section of YouTube videos! People often chime in just to tell other users that their taste in music is shit, or worse, to call them gay (why offend one person when you can offend lots)! People often feel compelled to retaliate in kind, forgetting as they do that they are likely being sucked into a battle of wills by a pubescent miscreant who, in the ‘real’ world, they would have little to do with, never mind engage in grown-up conversation about the stylistic vicissitudes of jazz!

 

 

Opinions are often their most repugnant when we have them about other people, and yet we all do it. We cannot seem to help ourselves from forming opinions about people. Perhaps opinions are nothing more than a ‘spandrel’, a by-product of our current level of intelligence. In architecture a spandrel is a triangular space that is formed out of two adjoining archways. It has no primary function; it simply exists as a consequence of something else.

 

 

The interesting thing is that when we ‘see’ people we really only ever see our opinions of people. In the world of therapy this phenomenon is known as transference. Transference can be difficult to explain but in it’s simplest sense it involves one person projecting the contents of their own psyche onto the form of another person. This happens all the time in the real world but it is especially pronounced in the close interpersonal relationship of psychotherapy. In short we only know the contents of our own minds and so we use the contents of our own minds to build composites or impressions of what we believe other people are like. In other words we rarely see each other as we are, we only see other people as we’ve ‘drawn’ them in our imaginations using parts of our own psyche and vice versa. Of course we aren’t referring to physical form here but to the impalpable attributes of identity and personality.

 

 

In therapy it is the therapist’s job to withhold his opinions to the best of his ability thereby allowing his client to project the contents of their psyche onto him. Subsequently both client and therapist can then explore the fascinating patterns within the client’s projections; these often provide an incredible insight into the client’s psyche and deeper frustrations. Often feelings that have long been suppressed - or anxieties a client has about themselves or their relationships with significant others - come right to the fore.

 

 

As emotional organisms we are highly guarded. An analogy often cited when explaining human nature is that we are like onions with layer upon layer of complex aspects to our personalities. Whether this is to imply that when you get to the centre there is nothing there, or that we stink, or that we make people cry, I will leave for your contemplation. It is true however that we surround ourselves with layer upon layer of protective ideas, opinions, behaviours and beliefs. If there were such a thing as a seed in our ‘centres’ I’m certain that that seed would be identical in everyone, and that our various attitudes and behaviours are merely the outward expressions of a protective and self-preserving drive.

 

 

In fact we stratify our acquaintances by how close to our ‘seed’, our core-of-self we have allowed them to come. Wives and best friends typically have seen the most of us and we have seen the most of them. We see them not as ‘architects’, ‘plumbers’, ‘shop-assistants’ and the like. Nor do we see them as ‘brothers’, and ‘sisters’, or any other label we care to give them, we see them as human, and we recognise their vulnerability and its likeness to our own. So why then do we struggle to recognise this vulnerability in everyone? I guess the answer is that we try to, but much of the time the protective layers and defensive strategies employed by both parties get in the way and our intentions are thus regularly thwarted.

 

 

Getting to know anyone takes time, but getting to know someone intimately takes years, even decades. Often we only feel truly close to someone when we have been with them in their tears of pain and tears of joy. The process of getting to know people involves an unusual and magical dance of trust. We take a gamble and drop one protective layer after the other and hope in quite panic not to be rejected. We silently await reciprocation and, should the reciprocation take place, we breathe a gentle sigh of relief safe in the knowledge that this other person is growing in importance and love in our eyes. With some people we can only go so far, with others we go great distances, but rarely in life do we go the whole way. This is perhaps one of the saddest things about the human condition. If only we could agree to share the truth of our fragile and vulnerable natures ours would be a world of profound love and care. Sadly this may never happen, even though from our earliest hours on this earth all each of us has ever wanted is to feel safe, cared for, respected, and loved. We all desire the same thing but we choose remarkably different ways to meet those needs, frequently trampling on the needs of others to meet our own. Hence human life is infinitely complicated and fraught with tragedy.

 

 

When it comes to our opinions - those simple sound bites of our deeper beliefs - we would be wise to identify their innately problematic nature. For we form opinions on the one hand to identify with others in an attempt to gain friendship and thus protection, yet on the other hand our opinions distance us from others and prevent the close relationships that we so dearly desire. If we don’t like someone’s opinions we would do well to attack the problem but not the person. By all means criticize someone’s thinking, and provide sounding reasoning in your criticisms, but don’t criticise the person. Remember that opinions are part of the onion; as such we should take our own opinions and the opinions of others with a pinch of salt. That is however just my opinion.

 

 

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