TALK THERAPY

 


 LIMITATIONS OF TALK THERAPY



Chemistry obviously provides temporary, dependency-producing relief from long range "mental problems" predictably resulting from early self repression. And currently, past the declining powers inherent in popular religions for structuring honest confessions, talk therapy is the best thing available for an average person looking for happiness, present tense. 


But one serious limitation of all forms of talk therapy, the type practiced by most counselors, social workers, ministers, and various specialized therapists today, following the transition of practiced psychiatry from serious analysis to drug management, is that it is largely limited to confronting personal experience subject to being "remembered" in language forms–words about events, etc.


Of course much current secular therapy only aims at managing and improving current actions, such as, "behavior therapy," relational training, drug re-habilitation, etc. That is, deep personal analysis, as pioneered by Freud, is largely out of vogue today, and relatively unavailable for average persons "stressed out" in the current "rat race."


There is, of course, nothing wrong with short term therapy, the type insurance companies are willing to pay for; and this, in combination with drug management, is apparently satisfactory for many persons ("clients" and "patients") today. But true personal wholeness, the only basis for real happiness, is only possible, so far as I know, via unrepression of human capacities "cut off" in the apparently universal process of self-limitations made in quest of social acceptance ("getting civilized" or becoming "acculturated"). 


And unrepression requires opening oneself to previously repressed capacities, habitual denials of personal abilities needed for effective living in complex societies, including present family structures. Many aspects of repression, such as, counter productive modes of behavior, can, of course, be brought into awareness via talk therapies and personally faced in beginning phases of unrepression ("getting honest with oneself" about established denials and self imposed limitations).


Talk therapies may be quite effective in these initial moves toward personal happiness (better relationships, etc.); but fuller wholeness, as essential for extended well being, requires fuller healing, that is, going back to the "root of our problems." And, ah, there's the proverbial rub!


Self repression typically begins, as best I can tell, in earliest days, months, and years of an infant's life, "in the nursery," we might say, when a child is first learning to maximize survival advantages with his or her particular mother–that is, adapting him/herself to persons and circumstances which make up his real world. We apparently begin "learning" to fit in, as genes for survival blindly direct us, as soon as micro-management of resources becomes possible–that is, when we first begin to "seek mother's milk" as essential, after air, for life outside her womb. 


Amazingly, to an adult mind, babies, both animal and human, are inherently moved toward "mother recognition," and begin "learning" immediately about how to best secure and keep maximum personal resources (food, comfort, services, etc.) immediately available, how, as we adults commonly think, "to get what they want when they want it." 


Although emerging data about infant "learning" is focused on facial recognition, that is, visual knowledge of "mother" versus "others," I think such initial personal "learning" is rapidly expanded to emotional signs as may be reflected in mother's face, that is, clues to acceptance/rejection, like/dislike, or other evidences of her favorable availability. Current studies indicate that more baby attention goes immediately to negative facial signs than to accepting clues (e.g., frowns than smiles). I theorize that if true, this may reflect deeper genetic instincts for self survival as related to possible dangers (hostile forces), and hence attention to threat signals while still in the midst of mother-acceptance. 


Crudely put, babies seem to be born with immense "learn-ability" about "how to con" mothers into bending their lives in sacrificial serving roles–in accord with every infant's inherent needs for survival and well being in the world as they find it. So far so good. Mother Nature has been grandly successful in imbuing her offspring with innate capacities for social adaptation, which begins with "shaping" individual mothers for supplying resources essential for their rapidly growing babies. 


But, and here is where personal "problems" apparently have their roots: The best way to "con" mothers into performing as sacrificial servants, that is, providing needed resources for a relatively helpless infant, is to, in effect, "bend oneself (the proverbial 'twig')," in ways which "work best" in getting and keeping one's mother at every beck and call, beginning with life-sustaining milk, but rapidly expanding to far more complex "services." 


In this universal process of "bending oneself"–that is, "learning" how to secure best available resources, initially from one's mother, it must soon become apparent that certain behaviors "work" and others "don't," for evoking a mother's pleasure, good will, and consequently, her essential presence, supplies, and services. Crying, for example, may "get her attention" quickly at first; but soon it may become evident that cooing, smiling, and looking into her eyes "works better" in the long run. 


The bottom line of all such infantile "learning," as moved by genes aimed at survival, is that shaping behavior in the world is essential for personal well being, that is, getting and keeping resources for maximizing individual satisfactions (upping pleasures, downing pains). And this means "doing some things" and "not doing others," or "behaving" in ways which please rather than displease the "powers that be." 

As capacities for consciousness rapidly expand, escalated skills for this process also become possible. As "thinking" becomes more than reflexive adaptation, that is, as a birthed embryo becomes a separate person, or, we might say, as a baby becomes a self, so do possibilities for greater artistry in "working the crowd" of surrounding resources (beginning with mother but rapidly expanding to father, siblings, relatives, etc.). 


Mother Nature's latest, greatest gift to humankind, namely, capacity for consciousness, becomes an infant's finest resource for best effecting inherited survival instincts in the world as he or she finds it–that is, for improving odds of maximized satisfactions. As "thinking" becomes more and more possible, expanding consciousness allows for escalated artistry in managing available resources, for "doing a better job" of "getting what one naturally wants." 


Again, so far so good; but now I can point toward what I see as the primal root of human "problems" in later life after nursery survival is left behind, namely, self repression. The flip side of human capacity for expanded consciousness, as useful in expanding social skills, is the equal possibility of curtailing, even negating this rather awesome capacity. 


Just as we can, ideally, become more and more conscious, that is, expand "mind space" for "holding" more and more perceptions while we transform them into reasonable conceptions as needed for "staying alive" in the larger world, so we can also become, in effect, less conscious than personal capacities allow.


We can, that is, re-press ourselves, as well as ex-press inherited capacities. The same capacity for con-sciousness, which ideally allows for ever increasing artistry in circumstantial adaptation, can be, in effect, "turned in on itself" in acts of non-sciousness, that is, repressing consciousness, rather than expanding this wondrous capacity. 


This, I conclude, namely, self repression, is the original, natural "sin," that is, the perhaps universal way we unwittingly exit ourselves from this potential Garden of Eden (meaning pleasure) on earth (as called in biblical imagery). That we commonly "commit" this form of "damnation" while in quest of maximum resources as determined by genetic instincts does not in any way relieve us of eventually paying the price for lost capacities–that is, for living without parts of our natural gifts. Denials (repressions) made, even with good and practical motives at the time, are still denials; and resulting self-splitting cannot but leave us operating, as it were, at reduced capacity, without abilities needed for full living in current societies as we find them.


Now I can return to my original subject, namely, the limitations of talk therapy in regard to deeper personal healing ("wholing") as essential for full living in the here and now. 


The basic problem lies in the fact that primal patterns of living, established by repressions begun in the nursery (as "the twig is bending" vs. "being bent" as popularly conceived when we blame our problems on mothers) are mostly made before we learn our local language, that is, before left brain symbolization becomes possible with expanding consciousness. While we make our most basic "bendings" in quest of initial goddess favors, we are limited to forming sense images ("thinking" in right brain based sense images, rather than later-to-become possible left brain, word based "visual" images).


When, and if, we later try to "remember what happened back then," that is, to return in mind's eye to the "scene of the crime" of self repression, as is essential for re-wholing ourselves, we must do so, if at all, via "body memory" rather than typical "mind memory," commonly structured around visual "pictures" stabilized in word shapes. When original self splitting begins, we are yet limited to "learning" via sense perceptions (what we see, smell, hear, touch, taste) rather than by manipulating left brain language symbols (knowledge held in word forms).


Although later reliance on left brain type, languagable knowledge tends to become consciously dominant (being easier to bring and hold in consciousness), older, deeper, right brain type sense knowledge remains the most powerful and moving of our natural forces. This "emotional"–for lack of a clearer term, "learning," which is actually a combination of "held" sense perceptions, e.g., mother's face, smell, taste, and feel, is the substance of what we know when we begin shaping ourselves for worldly survival.


Our semi-permanent "impressions"–that is, our earliest "learning," is formed from sense images (perceptions shaped into images formed from pre-language type experiences, such as, mother's smell, etc.). Later, after symbolization becomes possible, allowing for learning language, we may expand from primary sense images to include wordable notions (beginning with names); but for most of us, the "twig" has already learned to bend in functional shapes. What we may later call "personality patterns" have already taken shape, without the benefit of words to name them. Degrees of self repression, as we may later call them, have already "set in." 


Another fact about how our minds work becomes relevant here, namely, that left brain type "visual" images, that is, wordable conceptions, are easier to hold in mind space, subject to conscious recall, and/or for telling to others (such as, a therapist). On the other hand, primal sense images, such as, learned faces, smells, tastes, and "feels," are notably difficult to translate into available words, first because we have far fewer names available for the vast number of discrete perceptions possible with each sense, let alone good words for larger experiences comprised of multiple sense perceptions (e.g., meeting mean Uncle Bill). And secondly, because sense "learning" is older, deeper, and stronger than word based knowledge, it is inherently easier to resurrect in present times. 


For example, as everyone sometimes experiences and some may say, "I remember your face, but I can't recall your name," testifying to the stronger nature of right brain, sense images in comparison with left brain mental, wordable names. And so with all other primal, sense-based images, whether of sights, sounds, smells, etc., and assorted combinations, in comparison with word-based knowledge, the type which may be learned in school and/or from other persons outside the proverbial "School Of Hard Knocks."


Even so, since early shaping experiences are largely formed before language is available, and consequently exist in "body knowledge" rather than in mental categories (word based memories), returning to resurrect such learning requires something more than what can be easily told with words (even if events themselves are powerfully remembered). 


To use available language–which is seriously lacking in accurate representational ability, we may say that true "going back" to reexamine early times of self "bending" must be done in heart or spirit, rather than in mind only. Mental recall, even when partially possible with limited language, is not enough; resurrecting "scenes of the crimes" of self repression may or may not be accompanied with names and wordable descriptions of tangible events. 


Ideally so; but for healing to occur one must return "in spirit" as well as "mind"–that is, with whatever degree of personal wholeness one has managed to maintain, to re-confront times of loss capacities, before re-connection (resurrection) becomes possible. 


The limitation of talk based therapies is their common reliance on experience that can be talked about, that is, knowledge held in languagable forms, with little room for "body based" knowledge, that is actual, self-shaping experience, much of which occurred when no words were available to give mental form to real sense-based images. Even so, for real healing to occur, one must, I think, return "in spirit"–with or without names and word based descriptions, to times and places of self splitting, before re-wholing becomes possible. 


I cannot, that is, be resurrected from my degrees of "living death" initiated when I began the process of self repression, unless and until I dare return with all that I now am (not simply my conscious memories) to who I once was, at least in potential, when I began to negate elements of my natural, inherited capacities. And even then, I must also find faith for reclaiming what I gave up back then and bring my resurrected self to fuller living in each here and now. 


Aside from observations about current forms of therapy and my own unrepression, I theorize that human healing or personal "wholing" is essential for true well being, present tense, or, in religious language, for "going to heaven" in the here and now (as pointed to in my Natural Theology). Since, as best I can tell, degrees of self repression are perhaps universal in current civilizations, it follows that personal wholeness ("being ourselves"), the essential basis for personal happiness, will be required before one can embody this innate human possibility. We must, that is, somehow return to places/times of self splitting in order to re-connect with previously repressed parts of ourselves. And this return cannot be in mind only, that is, through conscious recall of events when repression began; "going back" must be "in spirit" as well as "in mind," that is, we, as existential beings, even if cloaked in ego states hiding degrees of self repression, must somehow get back "in touch"–physically as well as mentally, with who-we-were back then, and dare to re-open closures-in-self we made then.


Conscious recall may, of course, be a useful tool in such "emotional" or "spiritual" returns; but re-connections, "resurrections" of "dead" self elements, are more related to existential openings, with or without wordable and/or mentally visual recollections. Looking at pictures and trying to  recall events may indeed be useful "triggers" for initiating essential returns "in spirit." 


I am finding this to be so now; but more is required than "thinking about what happened," or "remembering" events; for real healing to occur I must withdraw projected powers "given away" in my processes of repression, that is, re-become fully response-able myself. 


In practice, this means giving up "blaming others (or circumstances)" and/or looking to others (outside myself) for gifts of my lost capacities. I must, that is, cease all forms of idolatry, positive and negative, and truly become "responsible for myself," as I think we all were before opting for personal repression in the course of "conning" potentially available powers in the nursery, initially personified in a goddess-like mother.


Bottom line: in cliches, which seem to be the best language for these immensely significant existential possibilities: I must truly " re-become myself"–as inherited through a unique-in-all-the world, and, indeed, through-all-time, set of genes (DNA), and expanded through personal experience in my own School Of Hard Knocks. I, in order to experience desired degrees of well being which I think to be humanly possible, must dare to, simply stated, "be who I potentially was/am."


So much for the limitations of available language in giving wordable shape to what I suspect we all "know in our hearts," even when conscious affirmations are poor and/or lacking at all.


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