Monday, October 10, 2016

The here-and-then

Psychotherapists everywhere tout the value of living in the here-and-now, and being “mindful” in the moment. This clinical stance, I believe, undermines both deeper therapeutic work and any claim to work deep (regression or emotion-release process). Of course, we all have to be in the present and to get satisfaction from it. But a clinical paradigm of being present means, and causes, a blindness to the fact that we – hurting people – are buried roots of history, of development.

There is another, and primary, problem with the here-and-now approach. This is the near-impossibility of being truly present, of being right here right now. Anyone who turns sharp antennae to his or her awareness of things can prove this. Most all attempts to be pure awareness, to be “gone” in the presence of some stimulus, must fail owing to a film of mind and history that superimposes between us and it. You can feel that film, though I suspect that most people have never noticed it, and if they have, have not thought of it as an obstacle to being here, to living. But that is exactly what it is.

A sixteen-year-old client and I, several years ago, discussed his deep aversion to being present, in the moment. It was astonishing to hear this young man describe, almost poetically, his insight that he is only comfortable thinking and fantasizing – living in his head – and has a dread of quieting that and being in the world. I asked him to look at a leaf on a tree. There was no way he could do it. What he saw was the alien “world of nature,” his failure in biology class, the realization: "I never climbed a tree as a kid," a stupid leaf eaten by an insect, a small object – one of thousands on the tree – that somehow received perfect nourishment from its roots (maybe: unlike his own childhood emotional deprivation?). And when he tried to shut down all this superimposition, he was enveloped in the uncanny sensation of being non-existent.

I know that many people would feel that, the non-existence, were they to be without the film. What does it consist of? What makes it?

In a way, it’s as if the mind has become waiting, waiting for something to happen, but this has been true since childhood. We don’t like to think that we really needed things as children, things that are as critical as a beating heart. We would like to believe that we move past these needs as we grow up. But that’s impossible. Go back in your memory. Picture what happened to you – an epiphany razor thin but earth’s core deep – when father didn’t keep a promise, when mother looked at you with cold eyes when you needed warmth. Picture going to your room, a silent place, because there wasn’t love, though it may have only seemed like your parents arguing, or no one talking intimately to you. You may sense now, looking back, that something ended then, when it shouldn’t have. The phrase “unmet needs” doesn’t do justice to this ending. Nothing does.

We hold onto this loss. Why, picturing the universe, is there something rather than nothing? In our life-in-creation, the formative years, the only thing that exists is the bond which we call love, that makes us human. There is no alternative but to be human. So do we move on without love? We hold onto the need forever, or it holds onto us, in the form of the distraction. It’s the past. It loves, and wants to be completed.

1 comment:

  1. After the sounds, the pounds and the pulses, then - what a surprise! The baby opens its eyes to a world of moving objects, with no names, no explanations, as yet. Talk about immersion!! Yet the movie was already started, maybe millions of years ago, but certainly thousands. You are born into the middle of a movie! (No wonder we have to go back to the beginning and learn what happened before our spot in the limelight!). And edit out all the naff parts where things were discontinuous, where the natural flow of things got stopped, though not forgotten - internal Black Holes of the lost self (Abandonment issues). Bob Dylan would say The Holy Slow Train, that slow eaking out of stuck / broken connections in the longest repair job ever! Regards, Paul Wood (UK).


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.