CHASING BACKWARDS, AN APPROACH TO PSYCHOTHERAPY & WRITING, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

Psychotherapy and writing are both the same and polar opposites.

In psychotherapy, the object is to resolve conflict, to help a patient understand why he’s in the predicament he’s in and why he’s experiencing so much anguish.

In fiction, a writer’s task is to create conflict, to place his character in an impossible predicament, and then to find a way for him to resolve it.

Both therapy and writing have conflicts that need resolution. Often, the conflict resides in the past, in a place that is not readily accessible to the patient or to the fictional character. Both need to track the course of their lives backwards, to chase an elusive past that has come back to haunt them.

Chasing Backwards is not an easy task. The mind has defenses that tries to protect it from unpleasant feelings. Defenses like denial, projection, turning against the self, identification with the aggressor and repression (to name just a few), are roadblocks to remembering. Often, to remember is to experience pain, and who wants to suffer? The more traumatic the memory, the more powerful the defenses.

One example is losing a parent or loved one at an early age. A common remnant of this experience is the anniversary reaction. Often the adult who has experienced such a loss does not remember the loss, but instead experiences a sense of sadness, melancholy or anger on or near the time of year the loss occurred. He has repressed the memory, but it emerges as a symptom that seems to come from nowhere. Only after chasing the past, and tracking down the real cause of the symptom, does it become clear what is really going on.

Whether it’s resolving a conflict in psychotherapy or creating a conflict in a novel, understanding the nature of the human defense system is the key ingredient to doing it successfully.

Art Smukler MD is the author of Chasing Backwards, a psychological murder mystery.

About artsmuklermd

I'm an author and a board certified psychiatrist. My blog takes you INSIDE THE MIND OF A PSYCHIATRIST. SKIN DANCE, a mystery, takes you inside the mind of a 41-year-old LA psychiatrist who must use all his psychological skills to thwart a murderous stalker. CHASING BACKWARDS, a psychological murder mystery, takes you inside the mind of a first year medical student who is running for his life. THE MAN WITH A MICROPHONE IN HIS EAR, takes you inside the mind of a 1st year psychiatric resident who is assigned to treat a violent, paranoid man.
This entry was posted in CHASING BACKWARDS, a psychological murder mystery, Childhood Trauma, Psychiatry, Self Examination, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to CHASING BACKWARDS, AN APPROACH TO PSYCHOTHERAPY & WRITING, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

  1. S.I. Hayes says:

    I have to say that I could’t agree with you more. Both as a writer and someone in therapy, understanding the nature and quiet aspects of ourselves really is so very important.

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