I Need Help, Where Do I Turn?

Psychic hot lines doing a better business than therapists…The majority of the western world on antidepressants…

Sounds like headlines from a tabloid. Two basic options open to people who are suffering psychologically are covering up the experience of fear or other negative emotions with drugs and spending a great deal of time and often money analyzing or uncovering what stimulates it or reframing our world view to hopefully make it go away. Intelligent, caring therapeutic professionals feel a deep sensitivity to those accusations and seek to expand their understanding of the forces affecting those they serve and their knowledge of emerging tools for managing those forces.

When people seek the help of therapeutic professionals (generally to manage their internal or external responses to some kind of negative emotion) they most often led to focus on what ever is stimulating the uncomfortable sensation. The primary “road to mental health” exists largely because of dominance in the field of psychology (practical psychology rather than research psychology) with theories of emotion based in memories, experience and behavior. There are new ways of help emerging. They involve more direct mental training, training the hardware of the brain to better manage the “eruption” of emotion in the body.

Seeking the “cause of fear” can seem compelling and something one might be able to get one’s mind around. Certainly it is something one can spend many hours in therapy sessions discussing. A fallacy is that understanding what caused the eruption of negative emotion in the body can give one long-term management of that emotion.

Having said that, it is certainly accepted that, for humans, “understanding” is a critical and important coping mechanism. For too long, though, it has dominated the methods offered to help people psychologically. Further, many offering therapy based in “understanding” (analytical, behavioral and cognitive — three types of methods reigning among practicing professionals) often do not commonly think in terms of the nature of emotion as a physical and chemical process, not just a cognitive/mental process. This seems to have three root causes:  

1.The reigning, by default, of a Freudian ethic among psychological educators and practicing professionals that sits in ironic contrast to their psychiatric counterparts treating the chemicals of emotion with the chemicals of drugs.

2.A powerful Judeo-Christian ethic Making it uncomfortable for many to reduce any human experience or reality or even portions of experience or reality to the biological.

3.The inability of scientific scholars to translate new information emerging about the mind body connection into practical methods of helping people beyond the drug model. Also, their lack of respect for methods of helping people that emerge from outside the halls of academe (whose methods speak an entirely different language, see point one.)  

Negative emotions for which people seek psychological help have a physical and chemical basis – they are uncomfortable eruptions in the human body. The respected pinnacle of the psychological community, psychiatry, dares not argue with that. The job of psychiatry, as it appears to interested observers, more and more is seen as focused on dispensing of chemicals, in the form of drugs, to make a change in the uncomfortable eruptions called emotions.

It is also evident to interested observers that less credence is given to “short term management through drugs” than it is to “prescribing as a way of life.” The knowledge of emotions as body processes could so enhance and expand creative thinking about emotional management and methods offered to people seeking emotional help. Listening to the siren song of the “economics of prescribing for life” seems to have spawned only justifications. It is also strengthening the ability of the psychological elite to limit the competition (drugs are funded by insurance companies-there is a paucity of coverage for other methods.

This is resulting in frighteningly limited options for those in need of help.)

Even when options other than drugs are affordable, the other half of the psychological community, professionals without prescription pads PWOPs, are busy sitting across from individuals in psychological pain discussing, analyzing, reframing and the like. They have been trained, primarily, in ways of thinking that look at human emotional terrors and disturbances as manageable through cognitive work–understanding. I is not common for them to think in terms of the physical and chemical basis of emotion and if they do might ask “but what has that got to do with cognitive methods I use with clients?”  

More direct treatment of the physical and chemical basis of emotion is actually the missing link in the effects of “understanding-based” methods. Forward thinking professionals understand the limitations of their work. They accept that the methods they offer, often an eclectic mix of analytical, neo-behavioral and cognitive approaches can only offer part of an answer.

Negative emotions in their most basic sense are physical and chemical eruptions in the body, eruptions that must be quieted more directly and regularly for long-term management of the effects of those emotions. Most often when a person seeks psychological help, the eruption of emotion has grown beyond something they can effectively learn from. But there remains rampant concern among therapeutic professionals that people must “grow from their emotions.” It is true that most people have matured by experiencing emotional ups and downs. Growing purely through ups and downs may be fine if one is bent on propping up a sagging self esteem but the objecting professional is asked, “Since science has shown that the physical and chemical basis of fear, anger and depression diminishes effective immune responses what about people facing illnesses? Isn’t it a fact that they do not have the luxury of time for understanding and analyzing the basis of their problems? Besides, if one has AIDS or cancer, can’t we assume they will struggle daily with new and ever changing triggers for fear, anger and depression and have systems less able to manage emotions healthfully?”   

These people must be offered more powerfully direct tools not to dispense with emotions but to quiet their eruptions. They need this not only to enhance their health but to have the clarity to grow from those emotions. These people already experience the mind-clouding effects of drugs treating the illness-shame on professionals willing to add more mind clouding drugs without searching for other answers.

Certain religious systems and ways of thinking in our society reign powerful as the guardians of the spiritual essence of human beings. This is sometimes to the exclusion of expanded ways of thinking. Expanded referring to such scientifically sound conclusions as the evolution over time of living systems. Unfortunately, like those in academe, their knowledge of newer emerging methods of psychological help that involve mental training is often grounded in long held superstition. An example is the shroud of misconception surrounding any method of help where a person learns to practice a state of concentration. These superstitions, though, are often fueled by practitioners and others who persist in infusing certain systems of help, such as uses of hypnosis, with the language of magic and manipulation rather than rationality.

People need help to become less a victim of their emotions. Certain people facing psychological challenges accompanied by physical weaknesses need even more help. They not only suffer the ravages of fear and anger but the residue of those emotions further weaken a beleaguered immune system and can stimulate insidious viral growth. There are emerging systems of help beyond the talking therapies. These methods, while looking similar, are very different from older uses of a concentrated state, such as hypnotherapy, which is primarily “use of traditional psychological methods while a person is concentrating.”  

Newer mental training methods such as NeuroTherapy Training are more directly focused on teaching people to use their brains in new ways, ways that reduce stress, diminish the physical chemical eruptions of emotions and stimulate healthier immune responses. People can learn tools that enable them, in essence, to become their own therapist. Some professionals may be sensitive about anyone suggesting that many people can learn ways of helping themselves, but the truth is that many who need or desire therapy cannot afford it. New methods of help can offer them tools that do not require long term interaction with a therapist or that can enhance and speed progress being made with a therapist.

The field of psychology is being beneficially infused by new ways of help. One could view it as a two-track model for psychology today. The first track could be called the teaching track, consisting of traditional methods of psychological help. The focus is more directly on guidance in living through the specifics of life. The second track could be called the therapeutic track, consisting of tools for more directly managing the process or eruption of emotion in the body and improving mind body interaction. The time has come for psychological and spiritual systems to embrace and for people to learn ways of more direct, and daily management of emotions. Through that they can gain more self control over their lives, their health and, have a more powerful impact on the health of society.