Sunday, November 10, 2013

Psycho-religion, part one

Psychotherapy is a relativistic universe.  While I am not familiar with all schools and subtypes of therapy, I’ll chance a guess that each one’s authors and practitioners feel theirs is valid in theory and substantiated in practice.  And, that each one can be and has been debunked by wiser minds.

The Pessimistic Shrink generally stands by a “primal,” holistic-historical approach that finds the roots of most psychobiological health and dysfunction in the impressionable template of the fetus-baby-infant-child.  “Feeling” as emotion and sensation is the sine qua non of this approach because it is one with the infrastructure of the body-mind, unlike thinking which comes with the neo-brain and is a late-comer and derivative.  (I’ve addressed this in earlier posts: A child “knows” by means of feeling that pain is pain, while the adult may “reason” pain as “deserved” or “for my own good,” and the self-mutilating adolescent may construe it, perversely but legitimately from her feeling-warped field, as a kind of nurturance.)

Regardless of my allegiance to it, primal “scream” therapy, at least in its orthodox form, has been derided and relegated to the fringe of the psychology pantheon.

Janov, its creator, has written a book disproving essentially every other kind of therapy:  I, myself, find cognitive therapy, the most respected methodology in this country, fundamentally invalid and useful only as a consolation prize.  Just recently I reviewed Jay Haley’s “leaving home” theory.  Haley, one of the legendary figures in family therapy, believed the psychotic young person fails to launch into the adult world in order to “unconsciously . . . stabilize a family in danger of falling apart should he or she actually leave. The object of therapy was to put the parents in charge of making tough rules that got the kid back on track as quickly as possible, and then deal with the fallout at home” (  But libraries of research predating our psycho-pharmaceutical era implicate the parents – their “tough rules” and pathogenic ways and being “in charge” of their child’s psyche – in the formation of the psychosis.

New Age therapies (est, rebirthing, past life regression) rise and float off to mountain retreats.  Specialty approaches (neuro-linguistic programming, thought field therapy, holotropic breathwork) may be looked at respectfully, askance, and ignored by most practitioners.  Freudian psychoanalysis has been modernized, partly to avoid embarrassment.  Gestalt, hypnotherapy, Bioenergetics, existential psychotherapy, EMDR and the rest have champions and detractors, research and its discrediting, even success stories that are denied: disproven by different definitions of “success.”

It makes sense, therefore, to ask: Why is psychotherapy – which feeds off the sciences of psychology – like religion?  Why do we see different truths?  Why are all of us (except for one) delusional?

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Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.