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Do you have a mental health issue you'd like therapy for? Depression, anxiety, anger issues, phobias, blocked emotions? Almost everyone would benefit from therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that analyzes the root causes of an individual's issues rationally, while medications such as antidepressants are also commonly used to make someone feel better.
But do these common approaches really make a person feel better? Do they treat the symptoms, or the cause?
I finally decided to seek therapy for problems that had plagued me for many years after I had kids, and had enough of struggling. Emotional numbness, or more simply said "an inability to feel", was my main problem. I was also aware of its cause: childhood sexual abuse.
CBT was the first thing I came across, and it never forced me to leave my comfort zone. I don't have a problem with rational discussions and was fully aware of my problems. I just couldn't feel them. And yes, that was the problem. When my therapist asked me if I could forgive the abuser, I said no. He committed a crime that ruined my life for many years. Why would forgiving him serve my mental health?
That led to some heated discussions, which even made me angry and that didn't help much, as anger was already pretty much the only emotion I could actually feel. CBT focuses on identifying and correcting erroneous thought patterns, but I don't think I had any. Medication, on the other hand, ensures that those who can feel but can't cope can continue to repress their emotions. My therapy experience is hardly unique — many people find that more common therapy methods simply don't help them as much as they would like.
Primal Therapy: Dealing With The Cause, Not The Symptoms
"Painful things happen to nearly all of us early in life," Arthur Janov — the founder of a completely different form of therapy — says. Those things, he believes, "get imprinted in all our systems which carry the memory forward making our lives miserable".
According to Janov's theory, which he called Primal Therapy, the early traumas a person experiences cause most of the problems for which people seek therapy later in life. Those early traumas cause a person to repress their emotions, which then lead to a whole host of trouble. Yet a person may be completely unaware as to what is behind their current struggles, and short-term "plasters" such as CBT and medications can lead them away from the solution, rather than toward it.
Janov has a way in, he says. He practiced Primal Therapy as early as the 1960s. During this revolutionary era, he shocked clients into reliving their early traumas by "force and violence". Now, his method has evolved to become more gentle — reminding the client of love, rather than coercing them into feeling than healing pain. Other psychologists, including the Swiss Alice Miller, have also offered their thoughts on this method and have helped change its face. The basis is still there, however.
That makes sense, right? Unless the very origins of a person's pain are laid bare and actually felt, no amount of therapy, medication, or choice addictions (smoking, alcohol, drugs) can really get rid of it. Only when the pain is finally experienced, the client can live with it. It might not sound as revolutionary as it did it the 1960s, but it's still huge for the many people who have failed to feel better after other forms of therapy.