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Often in psychotherapy a person's goal is to resolve a conflict between the unconscious mind and the conscious mind in favor of the conscious mind. You may hear it called an irrational unconscious belief. Someone may unconsciously feel unworthy of respect and acceptance but they consciously believe that this is irrational. What is interesting is that psychotherapy can work exactly as desired if the logic of the unconscious belief can be made fully conscious. It will not happen through mere deduction however. It has to be done by consciously accepting the feeling that results from the unconscious belief and embracing it. Then the unconscious logic can be clarified. The conscious mind has resources to test the veracity and validity of unconscious beliefs. The unconscious itself cannot do this. So an unconscious belief will usually remain unchanged even if one is aware that it is problematic. It is the psychological equivalent of debugging faulty code. The code will not change just because the user is frustrated by it. It will only change if a programmer edits it and runs the edited version in place of the faulty version. That is the major obstacle in psychotherapy. It is getting the code into the editor, so to speak. The logical flaws in irrational unconscious beliefs are not difficult to see. They are usually obvious. What is difficult is getting them clear in consciousness. It doesn't happen naturally. That is why things like mindfulness and Gendlin's Focusing are considered very useful by many psychotherapists. The real obstacle is the making conscious of the implicit unconscious beliefs.

Can someone tell me if I understand this correctly : He is saying that we must be clear before hand what constitutes evidence for and what constitutes evidence against and what doesn't constitute evidence either way?

Because in his examples it seems that what is being changed is what counts as evidence. It seems that no matter what transpires (in the witch trials for example) it is counted as evidence for. This is not the same as changing the hypothesis to fit the facts. The hypothesis was always 'she's a witch'. Then the evidence is interpreted as supportive of the hypothesis no matter what.

He's a jaded cynic. He's also the most insightful and intelligent PUA writing in the blogosphere. But don't forget how cynical he is.

I find it can be really irritating to try to make any kind of point about anything with certain people. To some there is no point in talking other than to yuk it up. I guess you just have to know your audience. blogs are like that. The main people write the main blog posts but anyone can post 'fanshots' (really short posts) or 'fanposts' (longer posts) and if the blog bosses think a fanpost is really good they can move it to the main section.

I like this :

A hostile environment can increase the pain, which makes the fear reaction stronger. You get 1 unit of pain from the rejection, and perhaps 10 units of pain from people who keep mocking you for weeks. So your memory associates the event with 11 units of pain, instead of 1. This alone is enough to explain why the situation is worse.

I am suggesting that it may work a lot like this but a little bit differently. The main difference is that I'm suggesting that there is something uniquely painful and harmful about, not the mocking that follows the expression per se, but the inhibited expression of the pain that happens because of the mocking (the inhibited expression of the pain of the original insult but I suppose expression of the additional pain caused by the mocking itself will also be inhibited). Our emotions are functional. We do not have them just to make us miserable or to make us happy. They serve an evolutionary function ( is there any other kind of function in living things?). So my idea here is that when a person, (or animal for that matter) is prevented from expressing an emotion it is uniquely damaging, much more so than whatever damage the event would do if they could express it.

I heard a guest on a psychology podcast that I listen to ( #321) describe how a facial tic that he'd had all his life went away after re-experiencing a car accident that he'd been in when he was a child. He hadn't connected the tic to the car accident but after re-experiencing it he understood it as a continual triggering of his initial attempt at a defensive reaction. The tic was on the same side of his face from which the other car had hit the car he was in. He believes that once he was allowed to complete his natural defensive reaction the tic went away. The reaction had been triggered over and over and over in his life but had never been allowed to complete. In one session, where he allowed it to run its course, it was gone forever and he hasn't had it since. So what is happening there? He hasn't gone out in a buch of car rides to desensitize himself. In fact in his life since the accident he'd probably ridden and/or driven cars thousands of times and it had no effect on the tic. Simple behavioral learning theory doesn't explain this. There is more going here. Something about not completing the natural reaction to the situation created a recurring problem.

I'm not exactly sure what is going on in a case like this but I'd be curious to hear anyone's theories.

I want to add that I think, and this may be obvious, that this also applies to entirely emotional reactions. I don't see any reason why emotional reactions would be subject to different rules than physical protective reactions.

Have you tried it yet?

I agree. But what is causing the fear? By that I mean precisely how does this fear work? I'm not sure habit is the correct word. I think it's a learned emotional response that has become automatic. So can it be unlearned? My supposition is that expressing the pain from the original rejection in an environment where the full expression of that pain can run it's natural course, will extinguish the fear. The problem would be solved. This is a big difference from a habit. Its being driven by an automatic emotional response that was acquired by a painful emotional experience (or many of them). If that emotional experience can be fully processed the emotional reaction will cease and it will not drive the behavior. I see your point about the fear conditioning the behavior. But I don't really see that as a problem once the fear is gone. The reason is that a person will not stop wanting to engage in life. Those desires will always be there. So once the fear is gone the person will jump at the opportunity to engage with people. The habit of avoidance will not overpower this inclination once the fear that was driving it is gone.

But will expressing the original pain in this way really extinguish the fear? The idea behind re-consolidation is that a disconfirming event must take place in a window of time after an emotion is activated in order to extinguish it. If a big part of the fear is not just the pain of rejection but also fear of expressing the pain, then expressing the pain in a supportive environment will extinguish the fear of expressing the pain. That will leave the pain of the rejection itself but that can also be extinguished if something disconfirms whatever the rejection was based on. If the basis of the rejection can't be disconfirmed the person will still be better off. Rejection does happen and it does hurt. A healthy fear of rejection is ok up to a point. Not if it leaves a person isolated or afraid to take chances but maybe it's the case that when the pain of rejection can be freely expressed in a supportive environment then it's not THAT scary.

It just occurred to me in the other thread that he may have meant it more in the photographic sense of focusing a lens on an image until it becomes clear rather than in the conventional sense of concentrating.

The purpose is to elucidate the feeling in more detail. Our feelings become automatic and don't require conscious appraisal. Often, a clear conscious appreciation of exactly what our feelings are, doesn't exist. The feeling can be there but there may not be a conscious understanding of exactly what it is and what it is for.

There is an assumption implied by this whole post that, at least sometimes, our feelings are not appropriate to the situation. Why would I want to get rid of an emotional reaction that is entirely appropriate? If it is serving me well then I would want to keep it. So, yes, there is an assumption that the feelings in question, the ones that I want to be rid of, are not appropriate. Bringing a feeling into clear conscious focus can sometimes make it immediately obvious that that feeling is not needed anymore, at which point it will vanish. That is the point of focusing. A public speaking fear, such as you describe, would certainly not go unnoticed. But that doesn't mean that the person is fully aware, in detail, of what they are afraid of and why. But focusing can bring that awareness. And often the fear is unreasonable and will vanish when that is realized. But if the feeling is not brought into clearer focus this will not happen. I want to emphasize this point. You can make a very rational airtight argument to yourself that it is irrational and unnecessary to be insecure in that situation. If you haven't brought a clear picture of the fear into conscious awareness it will not turn off the fear. But if you do bring that clear, detailed picture of the fear and its reasons, and you realize that the reasons are not valid, the fear will vanish. But you have to get that clear picture first or you can't change it. That is the point of it. The feelings may be irrational but they will not change unless they are brought into clear conscious focus. Perhaps that is why it is called 'focusing'. The name seems to work better as an analogy to focusing a camera on some particular area than in the common every day sense of 'focus' meaning to concentrate.

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