1. Psychotherapy is a process that changes the view of the
self. At best this "new" self is a more beneficent self-concept,
but psychotherapy can hardly be expected to establish reality.
That is not its function. If it can make way for reality, it has
achieved its ultimate success. Its whole function, in the end,
is to help the patient deal with one fundamental error; the belief
that anger brings him something he really wants, and that by justifying
attack he is protecting himself. To whatever extent he comes to
realize that this is an error, to that extent is he truly saved.
2. Patients do not enter the therapeutic relationship with this goal in mind. On the contrary, such concepts mean little to them, or they would not need help. Their aim is to be able to retain their self-concept exactly as it is, but without the suffering that it entails. Their whole equilibrium rests on the insane belief that this is possible. And because to the sane mind it is so clearly impossible, what they seek is magic. In illusions the impossible is easily accomplished, but only at the cost of making illusions true. The patient has already paid this price. Now he wants a "better" illusion.
3. At the beginning, then, the patient's goal and the therapist's are at variance. The therapist as well as the patient may cherish false self-concepts, but their respective perceptions of "improvement" still must differ. The patient hopes to learn how to get the changes he wants without changing his self-concept to any significant extent. He hopes, in fact, to stabilize it sufficiently to include within it the magical powers he seeks in psychotherapy. He wants to make the vulnerable invulnerable and the finite limitless. The self he sees is his god, and he seeks only to serve it better.
4. Regardless of how sincere the therapist himself may be, he must want to change the patient's self-concept in some way that he believes is real. The task of therapy is one of reconciling these differences. Hopefully, both will learn to give up their original goals, for it is only in relationships that salvation can be found. At the beginning, it is inevitable that patients and therapists alike accept unrealistic goals not completely free of magical overtones. They are finally given up in the minds of both.