Why Analysis Requires Time


The first sentence of every novel should be: ‘Trust me, this will take time but there is order here, very faint, very human. Meander if you want to get to town.’

—Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion, 1987.

In order to access emotional insight that is deeper than our conscious we need to be open to meandering along many paths that present themselves to us when we relax our control and allow our “free associations,” our stream of consciousness, to bubble up.

It is satisfying and also growth-promoting to share with our analyst what we already know about ourselves, especially when we have felt very isolated and alone with this knowledge. But it is also quite transformative to be discovering aspects of ourselves we don’t already know, in the company of our analysts. This takes time: time to develop a sense of safety and trust; and time to allow our actual non-conscious and pre-conscious experience, and our physical sensations and images, to emerge and be communicated.

Not all of these meanderings will prove to be fruitful, but I have learned over time to keep faith that the self is eager to disburden itself of many “unthought knowns,” and communicate, one way or another, in an environment that is conducive to this very important and quite serious “playing.”