Sunday, January 5, 2014

Lost adolescent

What to do when you agree with a mother that there’s no normal therapy that will help her immaturely two-dimensional, tantrum-obstinate, personality disordered son?  His dependency on her only super-charges his regression and his fury.  But independence?  Can you send him into a world which is so far over his head he cannot comprehend it?

This is where you need those old country estates of early schizophrenia lore, where lost souls somehow found a groundedness, left to walk the peaceable fields, garden, regress to feces-fiddling babyhood under the watchful eye of R.D. Laing’s cohorts.*

Is there spirit-shock therapy?  “Holding therapy” that would forcibly restrain all escapes from Self until the spirit turned and clung like a baby feeding and breathing for the first time?  Can I do that in fifty-eight minutes a week?

No.  The solution, clearly, is to pick up one of those psych books where the writer, Jesus-like in wisdom and healing, describes his therapy of one to three times a week over two to five years.  Or rather, elaborates his theory and avoids describing the actual daily moments of change, the “crisis of healing.”**  You ask yourself: How did he keep someone in therapy that long?  Is he that paternal, that good-looking?

And holding the book, you feel good for a short while.

With a few years under my belt and over the hill, I am cocksure enough to imagine (but not try) crash-and-burn therapy.  “Young man, you are bizarrely fucked up and there is no help but to face the truth.  You did not grow up the right way.  You will have to get out of this timeline, immerse yourself in the child, the baby, burn through the anger and the fear.  You will have to lean on me, as if there is nothing but leaning, let your infantile needs be expressed, forget about what’s correct.  And in this temporary hellish paradise, we will find some you that feels OK because it is held, so held that it will be held for the rest of your life.”

Then, you throw away the book and pick up Bettelheim’s, in which he said: “I speak here of the child’s private world. . . .  Each of us is implying in his way that one cannot help another in his ascent from hell unless one has first joined him there, to whatever degree.”***

* Robert Boyers and Robert Orrill, editors, R.D. Laing and Anti-Psychiatry, 1971.

** Steven Levenkron created "nurturant-authoritative psychotherapy," which he states is a fancy term for reparenting.  He writes about anorexia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and self-mutilation from that paradigm, which values the client's crisis of healing: breaking through the defensive alienated-defiant and pseudo-independent shell to the regressed and dependent -- and therefore reachable -- child.  Though Levenkron claims an extremely high success rate with anorexics, he is best known for his famous client, singer Karen Carpenter, who died of heart failure related to ipecac poisoning.

*** Bruno Bettelheim, The Empty Fortress, 1967, p. 10.

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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.