Matthew, 25, leaves with a task to do: "From here to our next meeting, I invite you to write 30 minutes a day in a journal (no more no less) the feelings you have kept and hidden for so long. Try to write in your journal at the same time every day. It is your time and space to express your stress/anger or anything that goes through your mind. After 30 minutes, stop, no matter what, and give an appointment to the emotions that remain with you the following day at the same time. Your diary will never be read unless you decide to bring it to me next time and don't read it again."
A story not so unusual
Matthew has had a lot of anxiety for several years about everything and carries a lot of anger about his ex girlfriend and doesn't know how to deal with it.
He checks his phone with apprehension, first thing first in the morning, in case his parents tried to contact him during the night with bad news and checks again 15 times a day with the same uncomfortable feeling that something happened. He is afraid of going outside in a crowded place with the risk of a terrorist attack. He is afraid to watch the news on TV ... and stressed about a car parked in front of his driveway. He has a lot of tension in his neck and heavy headaches.
He has constantly something in mind that he tries to break and if he doesn't, the anguish goes up during the day.
He wants to get rid of his headaches and his negative thoughts.
He tries to understand how it went that far with his ex girlfriend and feels guilty. He felt manipulated and, because he doesn't like conflicts he never said anything until that day when they went into a big argument. He doesn't want to see her anymore, he wants her out of his life, but he still has so much anger in him.
The systemic approach of the School of Palo Alto
The written expression of certain emotions can relieve him especially when their direct expressions are complicated. The writing can serve as an outlet for emotions retained: rather than ruminating them internally and amplifying them, it decreases their intensity. They can be letters of mourning or letters of rupture, addressed to a disappeared recipient or a lost lover with whom it is better to cut the bridges. They may be letters of anger addressed to the addressee of the anger. They allow to reduce the intensity of the emotion by stopping the attempted solution which consists in wanting to control it by repressing it. Important information: these letters will never be sent.
One of the first principles of the systemic and strategic approach of the School of Palo Alto is that the attempted solution doesn't solve the problem, it often feeds it.
Think about a problem you have had for a long time.
What exactly do you do in order to solve it? List everything you tried.
If you still have the same issue, you tried what we call attempted solutions (if they had worked you wouldn't call it a problem anymore). But we think we didn't do enough therefore we try the same solution harder again and again.
Our Matthew for example tried for years to control his feelings or thoughts and avoided doing things that gave him stress.
With the systemic approach we try something different, usually at 180 degrees.
When you think about it, it's not so easy to change and build a 180 degree solution.
We need to go beyond certain beliefs, certain fears, certain habits.
A coach can accompany you in the process and help you build the stages.
In the meantime, take a paper and pencil and write your attempted solutions which maintain your difficulties. And let's talk about it!