There’s a significant difference between believing and knowing, and it can have a profound effect upon your success in therapy.
It’s difficult when you’re enduring stress, or trauma. Your attention is dominated by painful thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Normative therapeutic models, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) rely on the prowess and ability of the therapist to analyse and interpret your reality on your behalf, leading to conclusions about you and your world that are made from their perspective.
“Do you think this might have something to do with your reaction to your step-father?”
“Err no, I think I reacted quite normally to having a new Dad, I was only young and was missing my real Father. Actually, he was really kind to me and Mum.”
“Oh, ok. It’s just that some children do react badly in such situations. I’ll give you the details of a book I’d recommend on attachment theory, you might find it interesting…”
And herein, lies the problematic difference between believing and knowing; between belief and knowledge.
For at a time of intense psychological difficulty, the possibility of an entirely knew reality has just been placed into your world, based upon the interpretation of someone who (despite their expertise) hasn’t actually lived your experience, and knows only what you’ve managed to tell them.
Now you have to think very deeply about their suggestion. You have to consider it, then perhaps re-consider it. Over and over.
Are they right? Has it been this all along? How come I’ve never thought of this before? I wonder if I did have a problem with him? I wonder if he had a problem with me? What would have made me react to him so badly? What about my mother? Why didn’t she see it either? Etc., etc., ad infinitum.
As a result of your considerations, and perhaps in the absence of any other ideas, you may choose to believe what the therapist has said. But that is all it is – a belief.
You don’t ‘know’.
Essentially, you’ve been asked to believe a new reality despite knowing that your problem has nothing to do with this suggestion.
So you begin to doubt yourself.
You doubt your memory, and naturally, you now doubt your own reality. You have a dilemma between what you know, and what is being suggested to you to believe.
And what if you do choose to believe this new reality, and the pain doesn’t go away?