Why therapy has been useful for me

 [This is a guest post. Mark isn’t responsible for anything in this post. New? Start here: https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/articles/]

In reply to: https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/therapy-counseling-etc/

 With regards to CBT: It seems to be attractive given the current scientific-rationalist zeitgeist. Update your beliefs, change your life.

I’m a fan of Wilber’s division of therapy types by stage of ego development. Different problems at different stages, with different therapy types being useful.

My own experience: Talk therapy with someone who does not even believe in “therapy” as problem-solving, but who is interested in exploring narratives, just naturally lent itself to focusing and then to internal family systems.

When I say naturally lent, I mean I quickly started to feel body shapes for problems, and eventually drifted into feeling parts, hearing parts talking, and having them fight.

There is experience, the stories we tell about experience and the meaning we derive from it. The first on lives in moments of pristine experience, the second in our communication (to others or ourselves) and the third in our life-long meaning-making. My therapist is especially interested in the two second types. Most of the times I’ll describe something “X, therefore Y” and he will say “Couldn’t the causality be reversed?” and I see that I wish that not to be the case because it entails something Bad. Which means it usually is the case, or I’m not taking it seriously because the conclusion feels undesirable (Stephen Colbert calls this Truthiness). If I do take it seriously, which usually then I do, I am capable of going into it, and it is usually Not That Bad. Suddenly I’m freer (see 2 below)

Why I think therapy matters:

1) Therapy allows you to act from Self (in Internal Family Systems talk)

I generally feel people act from Parts and not from Self. This explains why people seem to overreact, cause violence on one another, and be generally in a “protective” mode. Therapy allows you to relate from Self which means you cause less pain to others and yourself, this is important if you want to see yourself as and Agent of Good.

2) Therapy unblocks stuff

At any point there is an infinitude of actions available. Life is really an action-space with an infinitely large transition table. Most of the time the brain does not see “silly” options. If you are hungry, buying a rifle and hunting your own food is not the first idea that comes to mind (Hofstadter talks about “implicospheres” – implicit counterfactual sphere referring to things that never were but that we cannot help seeing anyway, e.g.: “If you had been here 5 minutes later I would have been gone”). The brain doesn’t see them because they are uncomputable in principle, and trying to go through them would leave you helplessly immobilised.

But sometimes they are not seen, even though they are not silly. Maybe you can integrate your SO into your friend-circle. Or maybe not, but now it appears to you as an option. Therapy frees you, it opens up new non-silly options. 

3) Therapy allows you to think like reality

From an essay on how human attachment is derived from our ability to stimulate neuronal assemblies by thinking

Ideally, a mind with amazing powers of self-control would delete the association between “wake up” and “put arm around girlfriend” as soon as the relationship with the girlfriend ended.   However, a mind without emotional interference in its Hebbian network dynamics would do the next best thing: the association would gradually dwindle over time.   For a typical human mind, on the other hand, the coupling of the “wake up and put arm around girl” network with the mind’s emotional centers, will cause this association to persist a long time after simple Hebbian dynamics would have caused it to dwindle.

(Compare this to ACT therapy and Relational Frames – the ability of the human mind to create arbitrary relations guarantees that any activated neuronal assembly can eventually activate one with a painful memory – which is why suffering never goes away). Therapy allows you – in my experience, YMMV, and so on – to get closer to the mind with “amazing powers” or the one that has the association dwindling.

Put these three together and you have a pretty strong system for self-modification.

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