Liberation psychotherapy

Liberation psychotherapy is constructed on basic evolutionary processes identifiable in human psychology. By observing those dynamic processes in sessions, analysts can specifically point to how a client functions normally or dysfunctionally. During the process, all information is shared so therapist and client can work cooperatively on a given issue. Five recurring principles form the primary framework for therapy and illuminate the inner labyrinth of the client. Those principles are life force energy, abandonment, emotions, modularity, and presuppositions.
In 1975 psychotherapists Lela Gescheidle Morris and Frank Reinhart Morris began to develop a therapeutic system guided by one thought: what actually worked to free clients from internal restraints. Two additional intents were to help individuals develop free identities based on fluid awareness of emotions (sadness, anger, scare, happiness, excitement, and tenderness), and to guide individuals to have effective and loving relationships.
Both Lela and Frank were long-time students of therapeutic literature. Frank had earned a BA from Baylor University, an M.Div. from Louisville Seminary, and had completed post-graduate studies at the University of Chicago in Philosophical Theology and Client-Centered Psychotherapy. He then served as Chaplain of University of Chicago Hospitals and became a Certified Transactional Analyst. Lela also gained certification as a Transactional Analyst in addition to undergraduate studies at Southwestern University in Texas.
Informed by Erik Erikson's childhood development work and Charles Darwin's attention to innate emotions of the species, an awareness grew of how human freedom gets lost early in human upbringing. As Morrises became more focused on psychotherapy, they began to look at human feelings through the word choices children use most naturally to describe those feelings: sad, angry, scared, happy, excited, and tender. The acronym SASHET is used to help clients learn a simple way of naming their feelings, asserting that this was critical to discovering what kind of feeling they were having and how, where, and when that feeling came to them. From there, the healing work could move forward and the client could become more psychologically free.
Their intellectual pursuit of value in various systems began with psychoanalysis and proceeded to other therapeutic approaches such as Gestalt, Client-centered therapy, Rational-emotive behavior therapy, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Neuro-linguistic programming, breathing therapies, and body therapies. They pursued any book or paper that provided insights into psychotherapy and human nature. The foundational question of what worked remained. They concluded that a theory that worked must be and remain dynamic. Rather than a final, complete, solitary system which promised ultimate healing, what was needed was a continually evolving approach combining aspects of other therapies.
Because of their belief in the equality of therapist and client in the healing journey, Morrises created and sustained a large client practice. Their process included therapeutic training groups of twelve to 24 persons at a time. Through monthly weekend therapeutic emersion experiences, Morrises would engage three or four groups each month, each committed to two to three years together. Morrises believed that training clients to understand the therapeutic process and theory invited them to become independent. As they provided their thinking in written material and taught what they were doing, their clients could more completely assess and provide feedback as to what made sense or did not, and what worked for them or did not. In addition, they met with full client loads during the week. They were continually testing and quickly getting feedback from their clients as to what worked and what did not. What they learned became the core of liberation psychotherapy, shaped by an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 clients over forty years.
The background premise of liberation psychotherapy is that human development progresses in terms of both bodies and minds following a blueprint inherited from animal ancestors. This framework allows a deep understanding of human behavior and provides an entry point for all therapeutic intervention.
Humans inherited given instincts which unconsciously lead to given actions. For example, human and other mammalian newborns instinctively know how to suckle. The five major principles of liberation psychotherapy relate to evolutionary instincts.
First principle: Life force energy
From infancy, humans instinctively follow actions which allow them to stay alive. A baby signals the need for care by crying and moving of limbs. This crying reflex at the beginning of life exhibits an inherent blueprint organized around the principle of a well-developed, sustainable existence. The therapist realizes this as a hidden resource operative in clients, a life force energy, which desperately desires a good, satisfactory life. Thus the child registers insufficient care as a psychological trauma. Psychotherapy seeks to positively reconstruct the blueprint. Through a large number of therapeutic procedures, the therapist uses words, set patterns, and even homework to undo the original harm while installing new life-giving options. This first principle undergirds everything else done in therapy.
Second principle: Abandonment
Through childhood and even into adulthood, individuals experience a massive fear of abandonment, which early in childhood would have meant death. The need to belong is an impulse met by families, communities, and nations. Individuals define themselves accordingly. Abandonment fear leads to adaptations that steal freedom of being, thinking, and acting, and must be addressed in psychotherapy. This fear is not rare, frequently permeating sessions in which persons struggle with issues of being alone, whether unmarried or divorced. Practitioners of liberation psychotherapy insist that the client holds the "abandonment card" (a tenacious resolve to not give the power of self-determination to anyone else) so that daily adaptations cease and the person moves from reflexive fear of abandonment to the pleasure of solitude. For instance, to keep a marriage healthy each partner establishes lines which cannot be crossed by the other partner's unacceptable addictions, which destroy basic trust.
Third principle: Emotions
Prime emotions developed over eons of evolution. Just as the cell is recognized as the basic unit of biology and the atom as the basic unit of physics, liberation psychotherapy states that six key emotions form the basic unit of therapy. These emotions are sadness, anger, scare, happiness, excitement, and tenderness (SASHET). When clients learn that they are actually helping significant others have a positive self-identity and fulfilling relationships, this process becomes a servant of life force energy rather than manipulation.
These five principles form the given realities of every therapeutic session. The goal, for both clients and their significant relationships, is soul liberation: freedom of being, freedom of thinking, freedom of bodily and psychological experience, and the daily activation of joy.
Who benefits
Adults who want to re-establish their primal human inheritance of freedom are potential clients.
Therapeutic method
Liberation psychotherapy relies on both therapists and clients being completely transparent. Rather than being prescriptive, therapy sessions are cooperative with two individuals figuring matters out as equal partners.
While procedures are dictated by each session's needs, the prime approach uses questions about emotions using the following Morris Matrix:
Step one:
Diagnose the emotions. The first three emotions are the primary triggers of negative thinking and actions. The diagnosis is facilitated by specific questions such as:
* Sadness: "What are you missing? What have you lost?"
* Anger: "How have you been discounted? Has someone you care about been abused? What is the injustice? Or what agreement has been broken and with whom?"
* Scare: "How are you scaring yourself? What bad thing are you fantasizing might happen? Are you obstructing your breathing and tightening your musculature? Please share your entire fantasy with me."
The second set of three emotions are the primary triggers of positive thinking and actions.
* Happiness: "Will you share with me the source of your feeling good?"
* Excitement: "Will you tell me about your anticipated good time?"
* Tenderness: "Will you describe how you open yourself to vulnerability and love?"
Step two:
Identify whether the emotional trigger is current, or real; or manipulative, copied, or traumatic. Real emotion relates to what is happening in the present-day world. It is revealed by breathing normally, making appropriate sounds, and moving the body freely and expressively. Manipulative emotion is meant to accomplish a controlled response, stemming from a childhood adaptation to gain a predictable reaction from a parent or sibling. Copied emotions occur with an empathetic intrusion of someone else's emotions. Traumatic emotions signal the replaying of a ferocious trauma or some repeating pattern that required a childhood adaptation to survive. Traumatic feelings represent a trigger to some blockage to human freedom. Use of the Morris Matrix pinpoints the source of the blockage, and the Anatomy of a Trauma is then the process utilized by the therapist to guide the client to make an alternative, current decision.
Step three:
Ask what positive benefit the person experiences as a result of expressing the old feeling they have named. Questions may be similar to the following:
* For manipulative emotion: "I am wondering what you historically got when you displayed this feeling?"
* For copied emotion: "When you feel like this, who are you copying? Who in your family acted like this while you were growing up?"
* For traumatic emotion: "How old do you feel when you are expressing this feeling in this way? When in your childhood do you remember a situation like this?"
Once the type of emotion is verified and the location of that emotion begins to be identified, the therapist and client can move to the next step.
Step four:
The therapist will flexibly explore each level of the Anatomy of a Trauma, frequently led by the client as he or she gains familiarity with the process, to fully understand and work toward the psychological freedom of the person mentally regressing to this old situation.
Anatomy of a trauma
# What was the real situation? The therapist asks the client to describe what happened from the perspective of an objective observer.
# What was the child's perception?
# What was the child's catastrophic fantasy? What survival plan was developed that necessitated the child losing natural expression?
# What need or want or wish was frustrated and buried?
# What emotion was blocked? Sadness, anger, scare, happiness, excitement, or tenderness were refused expression. Henceforth the person will have had difficulty with this emotion, fearing that if it is expressed, the entire dilemma of the trauma will occur.
# What decision was made?
# What body armor was established? The person installs the whole trauma in the flesh of their body, which remembers in a way that the conscious mind does not.
# What living patterns were installed? These proclivities involve relationship; language usage; attitudinal postures; emotions deemed proper; and patterns of thinking, acting, and solving problems; among others.
# What life plan became hardened and what others were made predictable? Here is where transactional analysis teaches about the script, in which persons begin to act as if they are performing along the lines of a drama developed by a child.
# How is life lived out? The person then lives in such a way that the situation of the child is proved to be the correct way to experience the world.
The goals of trauma resolution are to release the emotion, make a new decision in light of present day skills and resources, melt the body armor, reform patterns, make sure the need or want or wish is realized or dealt with substantially, get appropriate nurture, and return to conscious, healthy thinking.
Other therapeutic considerations
Animal instincts
One recurrent pattern in therapeutic situations is that clients judgmentally and moralistically grade their own emotions negatively. Some of these impulsive instincts are evolutionary in origin. They include:
Aggression. Humans are wired for fight or flight. Throughout eons of animal development, protection of one's own identity and that of the close family was necessary. Clients must learn that, because of their animal heritage, aggression is instinctual as is the urge to flee overwhelming predators. The task of therapy is to put this instinct in context and make sure that aggression is used only moderately and not with the intent to hurt others.
Sexuality. Genital exchange is necessary to continue the species, and it is pleasurable. The goal is to have clients release sexual energy with an important other, and to have them practice moderation, placing the sexual urge in the context of a cultured person who also has other needs and wants.
Survival. The need to stay alive sometimes conflicts with other instincts, for instance when a soldier inadvertently kills an innocent noncombatant. In this instance, the survival and aggression instincts leave those who have senselessly and physically hurt others in a double bind. Post-traumatic stress disorder clients need to realize the evolutionary basis of their non-intentional actions amid the chaos of combat.
Maternal instinct. Mothers instinctively protect children. Human evolution would not have occurred if this were not true. Husbands may resent it when their spouses move their love energy to the newborn. The man, still stirred by sexuality, needs to learn context and moderation. Evolutionary knowledge is vital to understanding at this level.
Fear of incest. The child automatically has two reactions when seeing parents idly kiss or excitedly engaged in intercourse: normal excitement as well as dread derived from the incest fear. Providing knowledge of normal emotions helps in this regard.
The sheer number of natural instincts is too great to list exhaustively. Others include nest building, language development, the urge to play, the desire to grow and learn, territorial imperative, tribal protection, fear of abandonment, and fear of strangers.—are shared in sessions.
How does childhood bodily joy fit in this approach? Response: Joy and laughter at the irony of human creatures bubble up in nearly every session without any set teaching in this regard.
Does liberation psychotherapy advocate the use of legal drugs to facilitate homeostasis? Response: In rare cases, a referral is made to a psychiatrist in order for clients to get bodily peace so they can work on evolutionary and emotional aid.
Since humans instinctively want a sense of meaning, they often attach themselves to an ideology which unwittingly ruins mental health. What does liberation psychotherapy do to address this tendency? Response: This is a potential problem for any kind of therapy. The reason is that ideologies seem to regress people back to the primary attachment of mother and infant. A therapeutic approach to this attachment generates massive resistance due to the fear of the infant within who is terrified of abandonment. Thus liberation psychotherapy has at times failed to free a client from infantile attachment to a poisonous ideology, whether religious, philosophical, or even economic. Doing so requires serious education and examination of the experience of the believer.
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