In creating the Mental Bank (TM), a comprehensive motivational therapy, John Kappas recognized that American culture conditions us to believe the money equates to security. The method awards fantasy dollars to the subconscious for its support on the intermediate steps toward meaningful change. This is a demonstration of how, over many years, culture infects our physiology.
In “The Sleeping Beauties,” Dr. Suzanne O’Sullivan describes the tendency for a newly coined psychological diagnosis to trigger a public epidemic, while the diagnosis is broadened to include more symptoms. This is particularly troubling in cases where the diagnosis is linked with expensive, long-term therapies. The clinician has a financial interest in the diagnosis. The clinician may then encourage the patient to accept a diagnosis that is a proxy for an underlying issue. Being politically circumspect, I will not identify the diagnoses that most concern me.
I will illustrate, then, with something relatively benign: Erickson’s Stages of Development. In coming into the world, the infant faces a series of challenges on the road to mature independence. Erickson labels the first challenge as “trust.” The infant, being totally dependent, must adapt its behaviors to the degree to which its needs are met. Its behaviors manifest an answer to the question, “Will the world provide for me?”
Biologically, however, that answer does not manifest as a logical conclusion. It manifests in the baseline level of hormones that control metabolic arousal. Insecure infants suffer from hyperarousal. They are ready in every instant to create strong signals of need (wailing and flailing) to motivate a response from their disengaged parents.
However, Erickson does not label the alternative outcomes as “calm/anxious.” Instead, he characterizes the outcome as a quality of character. As an adult, the existence of parental support result in “trust,” while a lack of support produces “mistrust.”
This might seem a matter of terminology, but it motivates inappropriate therapeutic strategies. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, for example, focuses on the rationalizations offered by the client for their anxiety. The statement “Nobody will ever love me” is attacked as an unsubstantiated generalization, to be softened with testimony concerning love received by friends and family.
What the client really needs, however, are the experiences that the anxious infant needed. The anxious infant needs to be picked up and held by a relaxed, receptive adult. The steady heartbeat, the soothing massage generated as the torso expands and falls with each breath, these encourage the child to soften, to calm, to return to the state of homeostasis that releases resources for growth and learning.
The Kappassinian hypnotherapist will often induce trance with a full-body relaxation. We recognize that anxiety is not a sign of a character flow, but the lack of a skill that should have been instilled in infancy. A full-body relaxation meditation is also part of the core practices in Gordon’s Transformation (TM) therapy, offered to millions suffering from trauma in the aftermath of natural or man-made disasters.
As that skill is mastered, sophisticated hypnotherapists will continue with inner child work. After establishing the state of calm, a guided imagery journey will lead the client to a door behind which an anxious infant lies in a crib. Asking whether the time is right to open the door, the therapist will invite the determined client to step through, pick up the infant, and offer soothing tones into its receptive ears.
If you have subscribed to pop psychology fads that label you as having a defect of character, recognize that in many cases they are a barrier to the acquisition of skills that allow you to manage your physical state. Hypnosis, which unites the conscious understanding with subconscious awareness, is the most direct means of acquiring those skills.