I had intended to wait a few days before posting again, but as so often happens, my last post made me think of things.
When I was in my teens and twenties, I visited therapists of various types from time to time. Not one of them did me the slightest good. I also read all the major works of psychology, ranging from Freud and Jung to Maslow and Glasser and Branden and many more. I probably read at least two hundred books of psychology, only to later conclude as I gained life experience and observed more human behavior that they were all poppycock.
When I was nearly thirty, my lifelong habit of compulsive reading led me to finally find something useful in a psychology book. The book was The Quest for Personal Power. If you choose to read it, ignore Dr. Nuernberger’s attempted insights about how life should be viewed (he’s a Buddhist) and his rather mean-spirited diagnoses of basic human needs (he claims that people who say they want to be loved “really” want someone to make them feel important). Pay attention to the techniques for meditation and yogic breath exercises.
That book set me on a search for more such useful techniques. Over the next year I learned other methods of meditation as well as self-hypnosis. I also discovered that the normal modern diet I had been subsisting upon since infancy was contributing to my emotional distress. With self-hypnosis, I was able to give up most of the unhealthy foods I had been eating and give myself higher quality fuel… until I had my heart broken some years later and for a couple of years didn’t care if I was poisoning myself or not, but that’s another story.
These techniques will not solve all of your problems. What they will do is help you with feelings of stress or depression. I emphasize “help”; a traditionalist despairing as he surveys the wreckage of Western civilization is not going to feel like everything’s just dandy if he regulates his breathing and meditates regularly. A lonely modern person who cannot form a satisfying relationship because his entire generation has been taught that flitting from one relationship to another is normal behavior is not going to be any less lonely. These practices will, however, help him to cope with more mundane, day-to-day problems. A stressful job, for example, or giving up unhealthy foods.
As I read these books and practiced these techniques, I felt tremendously angry at all the therapists I had seen. They all had doctorates, some were M.D.s, and they charged me an arm and a leg, and none of them ever told me that any of these techniques existed. Why didn’t they teach me any of this? It would have helped me immeasurably when I was in college. My grade school years would have been somewhat less horrific if someone had told my parents, “You know, 150 mg of caffeine isn’t really ideal for a nine-year-old to be consuming every day.” There still would have been the other problems, but at least that criminal amount of caffeine wouldn’t have been contributing to my anxiety, plus my growth might not have been so stunted, making me a somewhat less attractive target for bullies. (I was usually the second smallest kid in my class. Most of my family is tall.)
If therapists want to be useful members of society, then instead of encouraging us to “feel our feelings”, babbling about self-esteem, and making up bogus personality tests and lying about their scientific validity, they need to teach their clients breathing exercises and self-hypnosis.
However, as one of the hypnotists who taught me remarked ruefully, there isn’t much profit in those endeavours. She prided herself on being able to make most of her clients quit smoking after only two sessions. But it would have been far more profitable for her to get a Twinkie degree in psychology and then have her clients come in once a week for five years to dredge up every bad thing that happened during their childhoods with the idea that “facing” and “owning” and “integrating” all those painful memories would eventually magically free them from the desire for nicotine, or cheesecake, or whiskey, or heroin.