Sunday, March 14, 2010

Anger Management and Parts Psychology

Anger management work is a major sub-industry within counseling. The fact that anger in the form of rage so often becomes a matter for the courts is another reason for the demand for this sort of therapy. Courts often mandate that a person take a class in anger management as part of a sentencing agreement.Unfortunately, anger management classes are not very helpful except in the short term--when fear of incarceration is likely to have a greater effect on a person than learning rules for dealing with anger. The problem with anger management courses is that they appeal to the language-based, rational, left brain. Unfortunately, rage is a product of the emotion-based right brain. By the time a left brain rule for calming oneself has been put into effect, the right brain rage has already been triggered, leaving the person without the ability to reason himself/herself to a state of calm.

Parts Psychology offers a means for working directly that part of a person which carries the rage. In principle the treatment is simple: differentiate the angry part of the self; collect the early memories that created the rage; neutralize those memories so that negative emotions no longer attach to them. Memories that are neutral for a person cannot trigger that person into rage. Often, once you have differentiated the angry part of the self you will encounter fierce resistance to the idea of neutralizing the memories. Fortunately, with perseverence, you will generally be able to convince the angry part to cooperate in its own healing. A more serious problem in working with angry persons is in getting their cooperation in working with the angry part of themselves. In a minority of cases angry patients are simply unable to believe that their angry parts are different from the Self. Sometimes, the patient will say something like, “That is ridiculous!” when the therapist suggests that the patient can have a conversation with the angry part. Such a patient may never return for another session. Another means of resisting the work, especially if the patient is only there to please a partner or a court, is for the patient to insist upon “venting,” which might feeling good for a while but has no lasting effect. There is little that the Parts Psychologist can do when the patient rfefuses to accept the premise that he/she has an angry part and that angry part must have its memories neutralized.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Abreaction Versus Unburdening in Parts Psychology

Abreaction involves the expression of powerful emotions as painful memories are recalled. The patient is encouraged to express the previously blocked rage, fear, or distress. It is one of the oldest techniques in the treatment of psychological problems. It can be scary for both the patient and the therapist. Sometimes it is curative. The problem is that sometimes it also makes the problem worse. Its aim is to process the painful emotions that are bound to traumatic memories in such a way that the emotions are no longer painful. In this sense abreaction is similar to unburdening. Abreaction might even be called one way of unburdening. However, abreaction sometimes fails to do what it is supposed to do because the therapist and patient are not working directly with the part of self who carries the original memories of the traumatic events.

The unburdening that is the core of Parts Psychology accomplishes the unbinding of powerful emotions from painful memories through working with the part (subpersonality) that was created at the time of the trauma. The unburdening occurs internally as the patient directs her/his internal parts in a symbolic release of the pain connected to the memories. The patient does not engage in hysterical crying, raging, etc. in the therapy room. For example, the patient, guided by the therapist, might suggest that the internal part-self feel a rain wash the memories clean of negative emotions. The symbolic intervention might require repeating two or three times before the emotions for the memories are neutral.

Although I have borrowed the unburdening technique from Richard C Schwartz’s Internal Family Systems therapy, there are techniques in the work of Helen Watkins’ Ego State Therapy that also accomplish unburdening. For example, she describes “silent abreactions” in such a way as to make clear that her techniques, generally making use of hypnosis, also accomplish the neutralization of powerful emotions previously bound to memories.