Psychological Self-Help

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The belief-system that underlies the thinking of most
psychotherapists and lay persons since Freud, is that highly disturbing
memories need to be expressed, even if it means digging them out of
the unconscious, usually in great and excruciating detail. If
unexpressed, according to this theory, these toxic, partly repressed
memories will seep out in the form of anxiety, various psychological
symptoms (OCD, panic reactions, addictions, depression...),
physiological disorders (impaired immune system, asthma, fatigue,
pain...), and/or in personality disorders (suspiciousness, passive-
aggressiveness, dependency, Borderline impulsiveness, social
withdrawal...). The idea that bad thoughts and feelings need to be
expressed is certainly not a new idea. 
St. Thomas quotes Jesus as saying: "If you bring forth what is
within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring
forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." 
On the basis of this express-your-feelings theory, treatment is
often directed towards improving our memories of unpleasant events,
e.g. using psychoanalysis, insight therapy, non-directive therapy, TIR,
journals, autobiographies, hypnosis, and many other methods. These
are not quick methods but one can understand the rationale for
uncovering the festering sore, detail by detail, thus, aiding healing
presumably by sharing with someone, understanding, and thinking
though life's trauma. 
There are many life histories taken during therapy that support the
notion that fully or partly repressed memories, often terrible abuse,
are indeed associated with a wide variety of long-term psychiatric
disorders and difficulties relating with others and with one's self.
Actually, the data is very clear that abused children, regardless of
whether they forget or have crystal clear memories of the traumatic
events, suffer a wide variety of psychiatric disorders as adults. It is not
always true that bad memories per se lead to psychiatric problems.
Just because a bad memory is correlated with adult problems doesn't
prove the cause. But if the psychological turmoil as an adult isn't
caused by remembered or repressed experiences, then what are the
causes? We don't really have other explanations that quickly come to
mind but there are certainly possible additional explanations. For
example, there is compelling evidence that childhood abuse results in
significant physiological changes in the brain and nervous system
(Teicher, 2000). It is possible that these trauma-induced "brain
alterations" could be responsible for many of the life difficulties during
adulthood--and, in that case, memories would only be the initial causal
factors. Another possible theory is that an individual's genetic or
physiological make up, such as a quick temper or depressive
tendencies, cause both the personality traits that contribute to
childhood stress or trauma and result in assorted psychiatric disorders
as an adult, i.e. it isn't the memories of a bad childhood that directly
cause the adult problems, both just arise from the same genetic
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