Dave: All of us carry emotional wounds which are invisible. These wounds are often passed down through the generations by our parents, who carry their own invisible wounds and scars. We don’t call this illness. We call it the human condition.
We are providing alternative ways to look at the problems of living and being such as depression, anxiety, problems with children, marital problems. We are attempting to provide a counter-balance to the culturally dominant patterns that tend to medicalized problems of living. This is something I wrote for psychotherapists and other clinicians, but even though it is a bit obscure, I thought it might give general readers something to think about.
I want to use a homemade developmental schema to distinguish between a psychotherapy that acknowledges and nurtures the “I”, and a psychotherapy that operates as a cultural agent in support of social adaptation (Keith, 1996). I am drawing this distinction for the sake of illumination. I would like to review an idea that evolved out of conversations with my colleague Carl Whitaker, and comes from Keith’s Catalogue of Flawed Explanations (Keith, eternally in preparation).
I am an adult playing the duplicitous social word games of adulthood. Calling them “games” is not to trivialize them. For example, I am not a physician, I am a person who was trained to play the game of physician. Psychotherapy is one of the games. I play some of these games with passion, energy, and dedication. Some, I play with awkwardness and pain; some, because of shyness or ineptitude, I avoid completely. In my role as parent, I teach my children to play these games of social adaptation. Being a good player is crucial to survival and to healthy, satisfying living.
When I arrived as an infant in the adult world, my mind was a developing work in progress. I had no memory or veto power. I lacked the ability to think about what was happening to me. My self-esteem comes from this period, out of my being loved by them. It was also in that period that I was irreparably wounded by what they were unable to do for me out of their anxiety, their fear, out of their sense of inadequacy. The programs installed at that point have been or can be little altered. During this period, I was emerging, but there was no individuation. The chronic undifferentiated schizophrenic in all of us can be found here. Likewise, those mysterious problems often referred to as “genetic”, as “chemical imbalances”, or character defects are related to these programs, which are virtually inaccessible to reason-based language.
Then, when I reached two years, I became something of a problem. I began to individuate. I learned to say “no.” And it was not clear if my demands were based on need for food or on need to dominate my world and my adult servant/tyrants. By two and a half, three, my programming for adulthood was underway. I then started to learn these duplicitous games. I learned different ways to say “no.” I learned to protect my innocence through self-justification. Particles of memory began to appear. By the time I was three the training was in full swing. I learned not to bite just because I was upset. I learned to be polite. I learned duplicity in the name of adaptation.
Today most psychotherapy is done in the realm of social adaptation, teaching us how to get along in the world. But the psychotherapy that the mass culture is not very interested in, and I am fascinated by, pays attention to the software that makes up the Self. I do not think of this software as changeable, but high quality therapy aims at gaining more access to it, making our Self, what we know about ourselves, accessible. Our mental health and well being are reflected in part by how well we know, and accept, ourselves. Life experience, fully embraced, can help us develop this understanding as well.