The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.
John Maynard Keynes

Most problems come from our upbringing and follow us around. We perpetuate the familiar feelings of our past by the way we move, the places we go, the company we attract. The food, drugs, sights and sounds we select to take in.

We are attracted to surroundings and relationships we are at home with and match our expectations, even when they are uncomfortable or destructive. They are familiar and we have ways to handle them.

If we can't find these familiar environments, we re-create them, or even imagine them out of thin air to match our expectations. In this way it is possible to realise our worst fears and avoid other opportunities.

Noticing thoughts and feelings opens the way to uncovering those self limiting habits that are so taken for granted that they are invisible.

Some override common-sense and erode health and vitality. Some limit achievement and put a ceiling on prosperity and happiness.

As we notice we can gradually let them go and allow ourselves to take each moment anew as an adventure into the unknown. We are more alive when free of the constraints of unnecessary conditioning.

The first step is to care enough to do something. Uncomfortable emotions and feelings are usually a starting point. Emotions tell us what's important. Problems lose their significance as their negative feelings fade.

Sometimes the object of an emotion seems to be the problem – like a relationship or an unfulfilled goal or a loss. Other times the emotion itself seems to be the problem – usually simplified as anxiety, anger or depression.

Humans are social animals. We only fully exist in relation to other people. If we stop communicating for too long our language, verbal and emotional reasoning fades. Our image of ourselves with roles, expectations, rights and duties dissolves. We lose the idea of who we are. Being with someone is a chance to practice existing.

Research shows that social connections are the largest contributor to recovery. The quality of the relationship with a therapist usually shows up as the next most important factor. The kind of therapy does not make a lot of difference.

Most of us more than anything else want good connections with others. We can practice belonging and being accepted within a therapeutic relationship.

externalising thoughts and feelings
Language is largely a social activity evolved for communicating. Our verbal thoughts can only be fully understood by evaluating other peoples' reactions to them.

They only stop rattling around inside us and become three dimensional and real when they are outside of us in conversations where we can evaluate them through the eyes of others and put them into perspective.

coming to our senses
When we experience ourselves talking to someone in a relaxed environment our attention shifts from our preoccupations, fantasies and conjectures to our experience of our self with the other person.

As we shift focus to the world around us our problems are experienced in a wider perspective. We notice that we are not the only ones with problems. And that there might be solutions.

As overwhelming preoccupations fall away, our senses of touch, vision, taste and smell become clearer. We begin to notice things that were hiding right in front of us. We can begin living more in the present.

Some Person Centered therapies include activities like moving, drawing or writing which are more physical than talking and listening.

When we become aware of our feelings we can use them to work out what we want rather than let them drive us from below the level of awareness or pop up unexpectedly, catch us by surprise and trip us up.

a neutral environment
Distressing memories can be revisited and examined more clearly in a calm and safe place where they are less overwhelming.

A therapist's voice, face and posture conveys the knowledge of years of experience that disastrous life situations can be turned around.

expanded mental capacity
When we hear ourselves voice a preoccupation and hear and see someone else's responses then more parts of the mind are brought into play. We expand our intellect.

And instead of one person thinking, now two are thinking together. Extra intellectual capacity is engaged. This interaction of two people has a life and mind of its own that can find new ways to look at things.

release from exhausting inhibition
When we allow the awareness of negative feelings like sadness, guilt or fear into consciousness we are released from the ongoing task of denying them. We are also released from the fear of these negative feelings arising in us.

We don't have to pretend so much. Our body is released from tension. The negative mental chatter can slow up. The energy that was spend covering up is now available to do what we really want. Displacement and diversionary activities are no longer as necessary. Parts of our life that were starving of energy and initiative can get going again.

This is a bit like the way energies are re-balanced by acupuncture. Processes that are over-activate are calmed and depleted processes are invigorated.

fears and hopes
One of the secrets of playing music is to be able to hear what you are actually playing and not just what you are expecting to hear.

Awareness of ourselves and the world opens us to what is happening rather than what we fear or hope might be happening. Then we can find practical ways to get to where we want.

Here is an opportunity to practice control and decision-making in a safe environment. With power and authority to initiate topics and contemplate actions. This is a chance to build and practice self-esteem.

social and financial pressures
Social and financial pressures can override the evidence of our senses and draw us into activities that harm us until we notice them.

noticing others
Someone may transform a conflictual relationship after noticing they are distressed or are distressing someone important to them.

discovering who we are
When we know who we are we don't need to struggle to maintain a persona that really is not ours but comes from someone else – like a parent

liberating existing skills
Person Centred Therapy begins with someone's own insights and then frees up their existing knowledge and skills without building new belief systems.

Intellectual understanding is not enough. All our mind, body and way of life has to incorporate changes not just the words in our thoughts.

Most of the work happens outside the the therapeutic session. People take their discoveries away to process and build on.

The mind takes time to process and integrate a new insight. Some transformations take seconds to permeate our body, emotions, mind before seeping into our social relationships. Some take years.

light and dark
The Healing process is not linear or mono-dimensional. Not just push and not just pull. Both are required. Light and dark. Extracting and applying. Pain and pleasure. Panic and relief. Tension and release. Healing is teased out.

knowledge is ignorance
Knowledge colours the way we see and think. Everything we learn limits as well as enhances our understanding. As well as opening new horizons each new idea renders others less thinkable or less visible. Or even invisible and unthinkable. So an idea opens some doors and closes others. Ideas are liberating at the same time as being enchanting prisons.

Most personal progress comes from either unlearning or putting old experiences into perspective. If only we could maintain the innocence of childhood at the same time as knowing all.

A preoccupation with a change in a relationship, job or family role, health, a crisis or a traumatic experience is often brought to a therapist as a starting point.

Even if we are not addressing core underlying problems directly, whatever we talk about will be an analogue of underlying problems. This is similar to play therapy

While someone is working out their relationship to a therapist they are at the same time working on the old habits and feelings they bring from their upbringing and close relationships. A therapist becomes aware of these by noticing their own emotional responses. This is the counter-transference.

While minor or diversionary or masking preoccupations are being worked on underlying problems start to resolve even if they don't fully emerge into conscious awareness. A therapist might not even understand the underlying problems that are being worked on or how their resolution has come about.

deciding to come
Deciding to come is the most important part of therapy. Often this is all that is needed and the therapist's role is ceremonial and their task is not to get in the way of a healing process that is under way and perhaps even complete and just needing witnessing.