Receiving Loving Gratitude: How a Therapist’s Mindful Embrace of a Patient’s Gratitude Facilitates Transformance
When a patient earnestly expresses gratitude towards the therapist for the transformational therapeutic work, it oddly shakes up the therapist. The author argues that this may be because positive emotions are traditionally neglected both in the English speaking culture and the field of psychology. Yet, recent neuroscience, attachment research, and emotion theories have shown the powerful influence of positive emotions on human development, interpersonal functioning, resilience, and expansive growth. This paper focuses on two specific positive emotions, gratitude and love, that emerge in the patient towards the therapist after completing deep transformational work. The term used to describe this interpersonal experience is loving gratitude. This paper proposes that the therapist’s recognition and acceptance of the patient’s loving gratitude towards the therapist facilitates an upward spiral of transformations beyond the already accomplished therapeutic gains and changes the landscape of the patient and therapist’s attachment styles when metaprocessed to completion. This paper emphasizes the importance of cultivating internal and interpersonal mindful attunement in order to facilitate transformance. Specifically, the therapist’s mindful, moment-to-moment internal attunement to her own self-state is critical in receiving loving gratitude from the patient so as not to let pathogenic affects interfere with the emergence of transformance in the patient. Interpersonal attunement is fundamental in engendering relational safety in this process. The second part of the paper presents a microanalysis of a session in which the therapist self-discloses her experience of receiving loving gratitude from the patient and how her self-disclosure impacts the patient’s internal working model.
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