Thursday, November 10, 2011
The Psychological Method vs. Christianity - Part 3
Today’s episode will conclude our look at the ideology behind the roots of the “psych” fields.
Albert Ellis was an avowed atheist who considered Christianity a cause of mental illness. The Bobgans state that, “Atheism is the controlling philosophy behind Ellis’s theory.” Ellis described faith in God as an “irrational belief,” and his beliefs about religion are brought to bear in several citations from his works by the Bobgans:
* “The very essence of most organized religions is the performance of masochistic, guilt-soothing rituals, by which the religious individual gives himself permission to enjoy life.”
* “Religiosity, to a large degree, essentially is masochism; and both are forms of mental sickness.”
* “If one of the requisites for emotional health is acceptance of uncertainty, then religion is obviously the unhealthiest state imaginable: since its prime reason for being is to enable the religionist to believe in a mystical certainty.”
* “One of his highly human, and utterly fallible, traits is that he has the ability to fantasize about, and to strongly believe in, all kinds of nonhuman entities and powers such as devils, demons, and hells, on the one hand, and angels, gods, and heavens, on the other hand.”
* “Relying on God, or supernatural spirits or forces, or on fanatical cults, may well become an obsessive-compulsive disturbance in its own right and lead to immense harm to other people and to oneself.”
* “[REBT] employs a large variety of evocative-emotive and behavioral-motorial methods of helping troubled individuals change their basic irrational values and philosophies and acquire more sensible, joy-producing and pain-minimizing ideas. . . it is exceptionally hard-headed, persuasive, educational, and active-directive and because it straightforwardly attacks many of the sacred myths, superstitions, and religiosities that are so prevalent among human beings.”
Now that I have mentioned REBT, let’s see just what that is. Ellis claimed that people’s “psychological problems arise from their misperceptions and mistaken cognitions about what they perceive” and from their emotional responses to them. His particular therapy theory is called “Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy” (REBT), which was formerly called “Rational-Emotive Therapy” (RET), and is supposed to emphasize a “deep philosophical change.”
The Bobgans sum up Ellis’ theory as follows:
The ABC’s of REBT are appealing both in their simple explanation for complex behavior and in the truth they seem to reflect. Ellis’s REBT explanation for human behavior is (1) that emotional problems come from the person making himself disturbed through irrational beliefs and (2) that the person can make himself undisturbed through the ABC’s of REBT, that is, through admitting his feelings and then exploring what irrational beliefs are causing them and then by changing his beliefs. The following is a brief outline of Ellis’s ABC’s:
A. “Activating Experience.” Other expressions used by Ellis for this category are: “Activity,” “Action” or “Agent,” also referred to as “Adversities.”
B. “The individual’s Belief System,” which includes “irrational Beliefs” and “rational Beliefs.”
C. “Emotional Consequences,” either “rational Consequences” or “irrational Consequences.”
D. “Dispute the irrational Beliefs.” The therapist disputes the client’s “irrational Beliefs” and guides the client to dispute his own “irrational Beliefs” for himself.
E. “Effects,” also called “functioning Effects,” which are the “cognitive Effect” and “behavioral Effect.”
Ellis contended that circumstances themselves (A) do not cause “dysfunctional Consequences” (C), but that the person himself causes his own painful emotions through his “irrational Beliefs” (B). Thus he needs to have his thinking straightened out through “disputing” (D) his “irrational Beliefs” (B) and replacing them with “rational Beliefs” (B). This process is to bring about both “cognitive Effects” and “behavioral Effects” (E).
Although this system has some similarities to Biblical teaching, it is in reality far from it and, like all the other systems, places self as the focus of life. Ellis said, “Unlike the orthodox psychoanalytic and the classical behaviorist psychologies, rational-emotive therapy squarely places man in the center of the universe and of his own emotional fate and gives him almost full responsibility for choosing to make or not make himself seriously disturbed. . . . Moreover, when he unwittingly and foolishly makes himself disturbed by devoutly believing in irrational and in unvalidatable assumptions about himself and others, he can almost always make himself undisturbed again, and can do so often - if he utilizes rational-emotive procedures.” He also stated, “REBT acknowledges that a belief in religion, God, mysticism, Pollyannaism, and irrationality may at times help people. But it also points out that such beliefs often do much more harm than good and block a more fully functioning life.”
The whole point of REBT is the client’s acceptance of himself as he is, no matter what sort of person he is. The client is to just feel good about himself, and the theory at the bottom line is no more than hedonism. Right and wrong are personal concepts and what is right for you is what makes you acceptable, while what is wrong for you needs to be “disputed” away. It is a very man-centered philosophy. As the Bobgans point out, “What Ellis’ theory boils down to is this: The human is worthy because he exists. God does not exist. Therefore the human worth exceeds God’s worth. This anti-god doctrine controls and colors every part of his theory.”
Arthur Janov is the developer of the “Primal Scream” therapy method. This therapy is heavily dependent on Freud’s teachings, as well as a world view dependent on evolution.
“According to Janov, as the child grows he has a dilemma between being himself and conforming to his parents’ expectations. During this developmental period, the child accumulates pain from the injuries of unmet needs, such as not being fed when hungry, not being changed when wet, or being ignored when needing attention. Primal pain occurs as the result of the conflicts between self-need and parental expectation. Through the process of growth as conflicts continue to occur, the accumulation of primal pain results in what Janov calls the ‘Primal Pool of Pain.’ When the pool gets deep enough, just one more incident supposedly pushes the child into neurosis. This single significant incident is labeled the ‘major Primal Scene.’ . . . It is at this point that the child finally gives up the idea of being himself in order to gain his parents’ love. In the process of gaining approval, the child supposedly seals off his real feelings and becomes an unreal self. Janov calls this disassociation from one’s feelings ‘neurosis.’ Janov teaches that the primal scene occurs between the ages of five and seven and is buried in the unconscious. According to Janov, the individual builds a network of defenses against even the awareness that the pain is there and he develops a life style that hides the origin of pain and merely releases the tension caused by the pain, but he is not able to eliminate it.”
Janov, like Freud and others, places the problem in the past and the blame on parents. He has only one cure for this malady, and that is his “Primal Therapy.” Again citing the Bobgans, “Janov theorizes that to be cured, the neurotic must return to his major primal scene where he decided to give up his real self and his real feelings in exchange for the possibility of parental love. He must experience the emotions, the events, and the expectations of others as well as the accompanying pain in order to be cured.”
This “therapy” is supposed to be a quick cure, beginning with three weeks of individual therapy followed by six months of group therapy. The therapist uses many props from infant and child periods of life in order to stimulate the client. According to the Bobgans, “In group sessions there is little interchange among those present. The Primal is king and the individual experience is supreme. As you can imagine, it would seem like utter chaos and outright bedlam to stumble upon such a group at this time. One might find some adults sucking baby bottles, others cuddling stuffed toys, still others in adult-sized cribs, one man standing with his genitals exposed, and a woman with her breasts uncovered. Then there was the birth simulator for those who wanted to experience the Primals that go all the way back to the womb and the birth process. Additionally, picture thirty or forty adults on the floor, gagging, thrashing, writhing, gurgling, choking, and wailing. Listen to the sobbing and screeching, ‘Daddy be nice!’ ‘Mommy, help!’ ‘I hate you! I hate you!’ ‘Daddy, don’t hurt me anymore!’ ‘Mommy, I’m afraid!’ And all this is punctuated by deep rattling and high-piercing screams. Today the atmosphere is less chaotic - gone are many of the props originally used. However, the theory is still the same.”
As with all other models, this is another one that focuses on the self.
Next time we will look at whether the psych field can be considered scientific.