People who are experiencing pain often develop defense mechanisms to cover, deny or soothe their pain. Unfortunately, these defenses that they have developed often lead to more pain for either themselves or the people close to them.
For example, many different addictions begin by people attempting to soothe their pain. However, these addictions also result in altering their mood, which often leads to more difficulties. My approach to counseling is to look for the underlying, deeper issues within my clients. I do not view changing external behavior as a sufficient goal. Within most people, there are very painful realities deep within their heart that is driving their unhealthy behavior.
I believe the best way to help my clients experience true freedom and healing is to help them explore and process their underlying feelings and thoughts in a safe environment. Approaches that just treat symptoms are equivalent to putting a band aid on a serious injury. Although it can be painful, I think it is so much healthier for people to face the source of their difficulty. This pain often stems from past wounds or pain involving one’s family of origin that links to pain in the present.
Sometimes acknowledging or confessing fear, anger, hatred, loneliness, sadness or desire and processing these feelings will free someone from his or her defenses. In other cases, insight and restructuring one’s thinking and distortions can bring change. In other words, it can be very helpful for people to change the lens through which they see themselves and the people around them. All of this is not to say that a person’s external behavior is not important as well. I just feel that in most cases it is best to begin with changing the internal before simply confronting one’s behavior and choices. I see great value in having a balanced approach that looks at both the internal and external behaviors.