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Need to Restructure Cognitive Therapy
[Nanook is talking with George.]
"OK. I have to understand this better. What did he mean when he said ‘values is the one issue specifically banned’ from psychotherapy?"
"You’d think that therapists would discuss values with patients, wouldn’t you?”
"Of course. What else? I mean, if people are screwed up, they’d surely want their therapist to tell them the right thing to do."
"Well you might think that’s how it works. But it’s NOT how it works. At this ‘modern’ stage in human development, 1964, the human race still has no clue how to sit down and figure out the, quote, ‘right thing to do’. They have no clue how to list out, or even discuss a set of positive human values that all or even most of humanity can agree on. As soon as they try to do this, the religious factions pick up their guns and massacre each other. And if any college or government tried to do it, the religions would stir up the people and cause a revolution. So despite all the rhetoric about ‘family values’ and ‘human values’, formal large scale attempts to agree on what values are is still a BIG TABOO.”
"Whoa! This is hard to digest. But, I’m not challenging you. It doesn’t take more that a second to see that what you just said is true. But, if no major social institutions will do this, how do average people know what to do? And as you said, how can psychologists ever help people? Do you think that there are any individuals, besides you of course, who have a clue about it?"
“Sure. Lot’s of them. But they are kept quiet by the system.”
"By ‘kept quiet by the system’, do you mean that these people are, like, actually persecuted by the government."
“Exactly. By the government and by our culture. When I say persecuted, I’m not talking about being burned at the stake. We haven’t done that in this country for, say, 300 years now.”
"Whoa! Hold on now. When have we ever done that?"
"Come on Nanook. The Salem witch trials. Remember. And while, in Salem, the witches were only hung, millions of quote, ‘witches’ were burned at the stake all around the world.”
"Wow. Of course. Sure I remember. I guess the shocker is that those persecutions were only 300 years ago. I mean, we’re not talking about B.C. or anything."
"That’s my point. Persecuting people for making statements about values is part of recent human culture. And when I say persecuting, true, things are more subtle now. But the persecution is still there. If a professor wants to research something like values, he is refused funding. If he finds a way to do independent research and publish his findings, other academics in the system will just ignore him. If they don’t, they will get their funding cut as well. We can’t expect any church leader to do this objectively. The politicians all claim to be promoting values. But they are just preaching on the road of Single Sentence Logic and mesmerizing people with a revolving door of popular religious notions that the people are already familiar with.
So psychotherapy, which is under the control of the government and academia, has been carefully designed to totally avoid values. What therapists are taught to do is to keep evading the patients questions about values and tell the patient they have to decide those issues on their own.”
"You’ve got to be kidding!"
"Freud developed a neat way to get around the values problem. In his analysis method, the patient lies down on a couch and talks about their past. The therapist tries to help the patient uncover repressed memories so they can resolve internal conflicts. Modern therapists still do this. It’s called NON-DIRECTIVE COUNSELING. The patient asks, ‘what should I be doing about how I treat my wife’. The therapist answers, ‘what do YOU think you should be doing about how you treat your wife.”
"You’ve got to be kidding! And what happens when someone comes in who thinks they can walk on water or something?"
"The therapist is taught to guide the patient to figure out where they got that notion.”
"You’ve got to be kidding!"
"The tragedy of all this is that, in reality, every therapist does have their own set of values. But they have to deny that. Or at least, they have to claim they can keep it out of their therapy. But, when it comes down to practice, their biases come out. For example, guidelines for diagnosing and classifying mental disorders are summarized in a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM for short. It was published in 1952, by the American Psychiatric Association. I have repeatedly heard from patients that their psychiatrists stated they don’t agree with the book. They have their own definitions of mental disorders. So, if doctors don’t agree with what they’ve been taught, and they each go out and practice their own methods, how are patients going to get proper treatment? Homosexuality, for example, is classified in the DSM as a mental disorder. Many psychiatrists, me included, deny that is the case. So, is the treatment of mental illness dependent on which doctor you pick? Is the public being told that? It’s like the problem of equality. The profession is big into DENIAL about things that should be openly acknowledged, discussed and resolved. That’s why I got out of the profession. It’s a big scam. But the biggest failure is the inability of the profession itself to deal with values.”
"This is still not clear to me. Please try to give me a more specific example."
"Mental illness is clearly explained in its definition: a condition that changes a person’s thinking, feelings, or behavior and causes distress and difficulty in functioning. . . characterized by symptoms such as DELUSIONS, hallucinations, and an INABILITY TO EVALUATE REALITY in an OBJECTIVE MANNER. Listen to the last condition again: INABILITY TO EVALUATE REALITY in an OBJECTIVE MANNER. Until the people of this world accept that claims of supernatural beings, supernatural rules and supernatural events can not be evaluated in an objective manner, then they are doomed to live a psychotic life.”
"You need to explain that better."
“People insist on holding beliefs based on things they hear from any fast talking preacher that comes along. Forty percent of Americans, for example, change religions during their lives. But do people keep their religious beliefs to themselves? Of course not. They act on those beliefs. This is where the hitch comes. They then EXPECT the rest of the world to RESPECT what they believe, AND, to also respect what they say and do based on those beliefs. The consequence of this is that these people EXPECT the rest of the world to give them what THEY expect in life, just because it is what THEY believe in. Do you see the problem? Do you think that is going to happen?”
4-step change process
"OK. If traumatic experiences are stored as tapes in our memory, is there any way they can ever be changed?"
"Sure. And this is a process that the behavioral people know pretty well. It’s essentially basic learning theory. I call it the 4-step process:
1. Help the person identify what the unwanted behavior is.
2. Help the person understand why the behavior is unwanted.
3. Help the person identify what behavior would be preferred.
4. Practice the new behavior in a graduated program against controlled trigger events.
"That’s it? It seems pretty simple."
"Theoretically yes. At least in principle. I’ve used it often and it can work very well. But there are a number of complications.
The first challenge comes right at step one. That is just getting people to face up to the problem in the first place. A combination of false pride and fear of change will create significant denial.
The next complication is at step 2. Getting people to understand why what they are doing is a problem if their world is filled with false information and false beliefs is a real challenge. It’s a lot easier if you can focus on values. But most therapists aren’t taught to do that.
At step 3, the goal is to get people into reality. Sometime, however, you have to rebuild their whole world. NOT EASY!
At step 4, you really have a lot of work to do. Most people won’t accept how greatly their problems are tearing their lives apart. So they don’t want to take the time and effort needed to fix them. They are on the treadmill of modern life and won’t step off of it to do their recovery work. They want a quick fix. They want to just take some pill.
Then there is the problem of multiple overlapping issues or complications of substance abuse and things like that.
There is another whole approach that society, over the whole time span of culture, has developed to deal with a run-away Mr. Grim. MEDITATION. When people learn to meditate, they learn to shut out perceptions that cause emotional distress. They close their eyes, find a quiet place, sit still. But, this doesn’t stop the perceptions from within.”
"Ah! I see where you’re going. So you think the technique of meditation is a way to quiet Mr. Grim?"
“Exactly! And this is a learned process. So the process is learned by both Mr. Grim and Thinker.”
"And do you think that what the Eastern Guru’s have achieved is to mentally control Mr. Grim."
“And the basis of this flaw occurs because of the way our middle brain works. When beliefs create life threatening conflicts in a persons life model, they no longer can be held without action! Grim and Hulk will over power Thinker, block out conscious restraints, and action will be taken just as surely as the ‘fight or flight’ response.
Sure, you can believe that red roses are black. That just makes you psychotic. But, for example, if a person believes that in order to go to heaven, they have a responsibility to kill anyone who worships Satan, then we have a very different problem.
“Actually NO. They don’t have to legislate what we think. But I do think the government does have an obligation to be honest with people and tell them that they can’t just BELIEVE anything they want and simultaneously expect the government to protect them if they take action.”
"But this seems so simple. I don’t understand why it is a problem?"
“It’s a problem because of RELIGION. What the government is NOT doing is clarifying the other provision in the first amendment: freedom of religion. The first amendment says: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. This is clearly not achievable given the range of beliefs that religions hold on violence. Every section of this amendment needs to be AMENDED to clarify to the people that they are NOT TOTALLY FREE with regard to the freedoms listed there. Specifically, religions like Christianity, need to be told STRAIGHT OUT, that they can’t force their beliefs on others in our society through government edict based on this amendment. And until society figures this out, and faces up to the nightmare that religion plays in that, our society is going to be an asylum filled with people HAVING DISTRESS AND DIFFICULTY FUNCTIONING IN LIFE.”
"Wow! This is pretty heavy stuff. Let me see if I can understand it on a simpler level. Catholics believe eating meat on Friday is a mortal sin. They go out to eat on Friday and see other people eating steak. But they don’t just see other people eating steak. They believe they see the devil’s work in all these people."
"That’s the general idea. But let’s be more extreme using a very prominent example. Some Christians believe that abortion is wrong. They are not content to just refuse abortions themselves, personally, or even just among people of their own religion. They DEMAND that the law of the country supports their belief. And when the law doesn’t, they actually go out and kill people who have abortions or provide abortions.”
"Hmmm . . . Yeah. I see what you mean."
"The Bible says a woman is supposed to obey her husband. But modern women don’t want to go along with this anymore. So, they refuse to do it. This causes a lot of turmoil in Christian families. So they turn to counselors for help. Do the counselors explain reality to them? NO WAY. Instead, the counselors turn the question back on them, “what do you think you should do? Or if it’s a religious counselor, like a priest, he will tell the woman they must do what the Bible says. But she has already rejected that. Neither counselor is going to solve the patient’s problem.”
"OK. I see what you mean. But, again, doesn’t that mean that the government has to tell people they are not free to think what they want?"
"No. Let’s be very precise here. From a strictly ‘legal’ viewpoint, the government must say a person is ‘FREE to think anything they want to think’ where FREE means UNRESTRAINED. But the government should also have an obligation to tell the people that if a religion requires them to have BELIEFS, and those beliefs conflict with the rights of others, or that lead to violence, or that break the law, those beliefs will not be supported under the first amendment. The people should be told that if they accept those beliefs, the beliefs will most likely result in major disruptions in their lives. Furthermore, the government should specifically announce to the public, and to the religions, on an item by item basis, what teachings, if followed up by action, will be in violation of the law.”
"So, if I follow this, you’re saying that the government needs to treat religion at least as critically as they treat a can of soup?"
“OK. I never thought of it in those terms, but YES, that’s what I’m saying. The government goes through a lot of effort to require food manufacturers to list out every ingredient in a can of soup. They must also list the percentage value of specific nutrients in a recommended serving size against government approved standards so a person can evaluate the impact of that food on their diet. This same kind of thinking should be applied to religious teachings, especially if almost half the people in our country change religions in their life.
"OK. Now I’m getting it. Sure, we have the freedom to have any thought at all float through our heads. We can also believe anything we want. But we don’t have the support of the government or our culture to defend acting on those beliefs as a RIGHT if they go against the civil law. You’re also saying that you believe the government has an obligation to help people understand this by pointing out beliefs that are, or are likely to lead to conflict with the law."
"Exactly. I know this is a little hard to understand. But if it’s hard for you to understand, what about the rest of the population? Most people are very weak at CRITICAL THINKING. Our society is so dominated by Single Sentence Logic and Magical Thinking that people can’t analyze anything more than the most trivial stuff.”
"So, again, we’re living in an insane asylum."
"You’re accepting this too lightly. Think about the definition of mental illness again: ‘causes distress and difficulty in functioning’. How can society just accept a situation that can be clearly shown to be causing distress and difficulty functioning for most of its members?”
"Hmmm . . . Beats me."
“Come on. Think about it. A logical, rational society wouldn’t do this.”
"BUT WE DON’T HAVE A LOGICAL RATIONAL SOCIETY! WE LIVE IN AN INSANE SOCIETY!"
“Now that’s PROFOUND! The dark shadow of DENIAL is lifting from Nanook’s eyes.
And, I believe that there is enough intelligence in our world that if enough people would have the same insight you just had, and they would bond together, they could break away from the rest of society and move to a much, much better life.”
"Hmmm . . .
So, what’s the next question here? Is it, ‘how do we differentiate the sane from the insane?’ "
"EXACTLY! That is the $64,000 question. And if your Grim brain has been listening and recording what we’ve been talking about, you already know the answer to this question!”
"Hmmm . . . I do? I mean, of course, I do. And that would be . . . . . . "
"And that would have something to do with ‘DELUSIONS . . . hallucinations . . . and an inability to evaluate REALITY in an OBJECTIVE MANNER.”
"Yes! Yes! We have to hold ourselves, strictly, to only deal with OBJECTIVE REALITY. AHHH! CURRENTLY KNOWN MATERIAL TRUTH!!!"
"EXCELLENT! EXCELLENT! Was that Ben or Father Vincent? Excellent job. And why is that?”
"Because that’s the only thing we can actually KNOW. It’s the only thing we can touch, feel, measure and repeatably test. It’s the only thing that is RELIABLE AND PREDICTABLE."
"So, for $64,000, the answer, Mr. Nanook IS???? “
"The insane people are those people who exhibit symptoms such as DELUSIONS, HALLUCINATIONS, and an INABILITY TO EVALUATE REALITY in an OBJECTIVE MANNER."
"YES! Congratulations! And in addition to this check for $64,000, you have also won this fabulous brand-new Cadillac automobile and an all expense paid summer vacation to . . . . yes . . . the fabulous, BARROW ALASKA - the land of ice and snow and rain and fog, and drab brown grass, black gravel and Army green Quonset huts. But, the real treat will be Sunday Dinners, prepared by none other than Sir George Adams Yarrow, executive fry cook to admirals, senators, college provosts and drunken sailors.”