This month I participated in a seminar on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety Disorders at the Beck Institute in Philadelphia. Dr. Beck spoke about clinical challenges in Anxiety Disorders and referred to his “sea change” from psychoanalysis to CBT.
What is a sea change? Wikipedia defines it as, “an idiom for broad transformation drawn from a phrase in Shakespeare's play The Tempest.
I wondered how Dr. Beck found the courage, confidence and clarity to leave the field and create a new treatment, so I asked about his sea change. It seems that he switched because he saw that the psychoanalytic paradigm of the time was not effective for some clients. Full expression of spontaneous prose did not bring relief. Rather, he noted that teaching people to alter thought patterns was a better method for many. Through intuition, observation and years of clinical experience he devised a new theory.
Beck tested his idea—changing thoughts changes moods—and scientifically, it bore out. He did say, smiling, that at first, his practice petered out because people were getting better with a few months of sessions as opposed to 4-5 days per week over many years as is common in psychoanalysis.
Meaning, truth and purpose trumped adherence to tradition and stimulated the courage to change paths.
Psychologist and creativity expert Dr. Eric Maisel often refers to the importance of finding or making meaning. When a matter resonates deeply, saying no to the status quo may be necessary, uncomfortable and exciting. If there is a drive, there is a drive. Deviation may provoke flack, but holding fast to your conviction ultimately can be a generative, generous act.
If you feel you want to give up, back down, recede or conform maybe you shouldn’t. You might be able to help someone else if you stay true to what you know, feel and believe.