As psychotherapists, our patients share with us the joys and sorrows, pain and pettiness, betrayal and cruelty, the lies and misery in their lives and relationships. We listen carefully and empathically.
Between the lines of dialogue, however, therapists hover along a continuum of self-protection located between soul-sadness at one extreme, and a cool, isolated detachment at the other.
Natural disasters, genocide, suicide bombings, hostage executions or beheadings, and sick and starving children leap to our attention in the media. Our patients often mention these events, and we try to listen empathically to their feelings and fantasies about them. We suppress or deny our own strong emotions so we can work with our patients. But our feelings can accumulate and lead to soul-sadness.
Psychotherapists can use art, music, poetry, or creative writing to help contain and manage soul-sadness. This works by discharging, soothing, containing, or sublimating these realities in our daily work life.
During 45-plus years of practicing teaching and writing about medicine, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and psychotherapy, I have come to realize how draining psychotherapy is for the therapist. The use of writing as a means of catharsis and processing of stress has been valuable for me, so I wanted to share writing as a means of healing soul-sadness and preventing burn-out.
Prevention soul-sadness and burnout in psychotherapists is very important for us and our patients.
Peter Alan Olsson, MD, is a retired psychiatrist/psychoanalyst who has been writing for over twenty years. He trained at Baylor College of Medicine and Houston-Galveston Psychoanalytic Institute in Houston. He is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Dartmouth Med School and an adjunct professor of clinical psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine.
Publisher’s website: http://sbpra.com/PeterAlanOlsson
Author’s website: www.drpeterolsson.com