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The National Council of Psychotherapists

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Holistic Approach to Psychotherapy


Basic understandings in metaphor changes and creation in the light of

'Molecules of Emotion' by Candace B. Pert.


Asaf Rolef Ben-Shahar LHS LNCP LicMT


The limits of my language mean the limits of my world

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1922)



1. Introduction


In his famous book 'The structure of scientific revolutions' (1962), Tomas Kuhn argues that we persist with fixed ideas and beliefs even when they are no longer adequate. As a therapist, you are probably aware of the great difficulty in adapting to change. It is only when a revolutionist dares to challenge the old ideas, claims Kuhn, that a shift in the understanding (scientific paradigm) occurs (Freudental, 1977; Honderich, 1995).


This article has two main purposes. The first is to consider the new paradigm of thought, as reflected in our world - in the therapeutic context, and its consequences as I understand them. The second is reviewing Candace Pert's excellent book, 'Molecules of Emotion'. Her book is a dynamic shift of paradigm - like the Hegelian philosophy, it draws its power from the past (scientific knowledge) and builds upon the new paradigm of 'know thyself'. As a reader you become an active participant in the changes that occur in her life (and in the book itself). Since the theme of paradigm shifting is actually happening in her book, the review is interwoven here.   


The basic argument of the holistic paradigm (or metaphoric paradigm) is that of the creative powers of information-dynamics. The first step is acknowledging that we are subjects that view the world through selective, personally fitted 'glasses'. Therefor, the second is to understand that the 'objective world' cannot be known by us. The third step is the understanding that this objective world doesn’t really exist. The final step is that through understanding existence, we create it, and we are created by this very process. This point is beautifully illustrated by the Nobel-prize winner José Saramago (1997): "Strictly speaking, we do not make decisions, decisions make us'.



2. Molecules of emotion I


When this book was first recommended to me, the title made me very uncomfortable - too New Age for me. I thought it would be another book that would claim to find the bridge between mind and body, to point out some unscientific pseudofacts that we should all be aware of. However, after the third recommendation I bought the book and delved into it.  Dr Candace Pert is a neuroscientist and she speaks biology, which is familiar territory for me, my wife is being a scientist as well.


At the beginning of her book (which is, more than anything, a novel, a very good novel and very well written) Candace unfolds her scientific history and experience, mainly from a biological point of view but also from an autobiographical one. I was excited to enter her lab, when she invited me in, with her enthusiastic approach towards science and with professional knowledge phrased in words I could understand. Very gradually, she draws you into the basics of information-substances, which create the core of information flow in our bodies, communicating with the outside world and the inner one. In regards to facts - the book is full of them. If you are looking for scientific approval of complementary medicine, of hypnotherapy or any mind-body approach, you will surely find references for it here.


It is so heart-warming to find a western scientist who not only acknowledges the unity of mind-body (the body is the unconscious mind, she says), but also further serves the public in the endeavour to shift the old paradigm of separation and move towards a new, integrated one.


Candace's future flows right into her past (since information and metaphors are boundless in terms of space and time), creating a shift in her language. She stands on the edge of a new paradigm, explores her own boundaries, with beauty, love, excitement and humble humanity. Personally, I found a lot of the knowledge in the first part of the book irrelevant - when a paradigm changes, it needs a new language, new metaphor, but I acknowledge that we are on the threshold of an exciting shift. Hence, the old language is gradually twisting itself, until barely recognised, before finally moving forward to the new one. Speaking more languages is always better, having more choices is what we aim for - as humans, and as therapists.


She takes the reader on a shamanic journey of self-exploration, through the realms of her private life, through the realms of science, as she shapes it with her knowledge. I found myself joining her journey, holding her hand and showing compassion in her difficult moments, happy in her growth, always from within. You really ought to read this book.


3. Brief sketch of past paradigms in the western thought


As the German philosopher Hegel understood, our thinking is historically conditioned and the history of the world is the progress of the consciousness of freedom. Unlike many western-thinkers, Hegel believed that at their extreme points - opposites veer into each other (Hegel, G W F, 1823-8; Honderich, T, 1995). Nowadays, when we realise that we are shaped by our past, we can appreciate the donations of previous paradigms of thought, which dictated not only what we think - but also what we are; not many years ago, the earth was actually flat.


The primitive man was close to nature. His life was lead by nature only, he was truly an animal, and as such - nature was his, just as he belonged to nature. There was no distinct differentiation, there was no actual separation: man and nature were one.


Aristotle (384-322 BC) was the first (that we know of) to provide a systematic organisation of the world, thus beginning the dichotomic paradigm: separating matter from form, action from potential. He was also responsible for the emphasis that western thought placed on causation, as we all aspire the primal ultimate cause - God (Aristotle; Honderich, 1995). Thereafter, Aristotle had immense impact on western thought, and even modern philosophy was very much influenced by him. 


The French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) further established the dichotomies - mind/body, spirit/matter, God/man, by claiming that while our body is a machine, our soul is immaterial. His aim was to use one system of explanation, and he took revolutionary steps to achieve his reductionism. Cartesian philosophy was the starting point of western medicine, which is the mechanical engineering of the human body. Descartes widened the gap between earth and sky, God and man (reformation, the Copernican revolution, everything began to unfold, to be separated, to die) (Descartes, 1641). Many modern thinkers (amongst them, Freud, Jung and Fromm) discussed the issue of separateness with great details (for example, in Freud, S (1913) Totem and Taboo; also Jung C G (1963) Memories, Dreams, Recollections).


The modern western science is the science of matter (thus, creating matter). The question of soul has long vanished from scientific language, from scientific discussion, and only later penetrated through its softer form, consciousness, that gently reoccupies its territory. For many years, the empiricist paradigm ruled.


Philosophers like John Locke (1632-1704), argued that sensual experience is the only valid information for scientific investigations (Honderich, 1995), and led others - like the Scottish David Hume - to claim that: 'there is no impression of the self, therefore there is no self' (Hume, 1739-40).


Science became a multidisciplinary area, where two subjects seldom overlapped: the language of Newtonian science is matter, energy and force; the language of religion is prayer and theology - the science of pure spirit. When psychology developed it was mainly influenced by these ideas, along with Darwinism - and it was the science of human behaviour. Only later the therapeutic context became an exploration of the space between the 'I and Thou'.  


Sprouts of the next paradigm began with Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) who asserted that the objective world could not be known, and only phenomena are knowable (Bergman 1993). The next recognition, that no objectivity exists, but only theories of knowledge, was not too big a step from there.


Einstein's theory of relativity added substance to the shifting paradigm; the observer changes the reality. Einstein's theory is 'Kantian physics', acknowledging the limits of observation.


I will conclude the historic review with two of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century. Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) argued that each 'Internal Process' requires external criteria, thus stressing the fact that personality is 'a perceived personality' rather than an objective entity (Wittgenstein, 1953). Even more progressive a view was that of Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), who claimed that the person is only a board on which existence (Sein) is reflected (Mansbach, 1998). The latter view is much closer to the eastern thought, from which the holistic approach draws many ideas. It is also closely related to Quantum physics, where the subject changes and shapes reality through the act of observation: the term objectivity loses its power; and the gate to information theory, the science of relationships and dynamics, opens.


4. The pain of separation:


In Kabalah, the Jewish Mysticism, the pain of separation is of crucial importance. Once, God was one, total unity and (static) completeness. But then the divine vessels broke (Shvirat Kelim) and the unity within God gradually cracked and broke apart. Human history from then forth is repeating this very event, the vibrations of the primal separation. We repeat the theme of breaking-apart again and again in our history. Our task in the world is to help God become one again, to regain God's unity with the whole. It is this dynamic aspiration which enables us to do it (which seems contradictory to the western ear). We have immense powers - we can shape and help God himself, yet we are shaped by our deeds over and over again (Ravitsky, A, 1996).


Freud considered the basic loneliness as a source of neuroses, while Jung drew a more positive conclusion that: 'No man is an island, every man is a piece of the continent', thus encouraging the search for deeper common themes in our lives and our self-exploration (Fordham, 1991; Gay, 1995).


In his classic book 'The Art of Loving', Erich Fromm alleged that man's basic isolation, this absolute solitude that accompanies us from birth till death, is the cause of our deepest anxiety. We long to transcend this solitude and find comfort in harmonious reunion: This is the art of loving (Fromm, 1957).   


How is the pain of separation relevant? The holistic approach and Eastern thought are exactly about overcoming the isolation. By acknowledging the contradictory state of creating a God who creates us; by accepting the dynamic understanding of information flow and influence, we are saved.


We are home, back together with our fellowman and God. As therapists, are we not reuniting with the 'thou' every day?



5. The holistic metaphor


According to Pythagoras (c.550-c.500 BC) the universe is 'cosmos' - an order. Through his efforts to know that cosmos, man himself becomes cosmios, ordered (or in order) - since one understands what resembles oneself and resembles it through one's understanding (Scolnicov, 1981)


In a world of blind people, one of Saramago's characters says: 'How fortunate we would be if someone knew the bible by heart, we could repeat everything since the creation of the world' (José Saramago, 1995). And by repeating everything since the creation, are we not recreating the world? Are we not being recreated by the same act?  


Since metaphors are the manifestations of paradigms, the ways of looking at the spirit (itself), our world expands as paradigms expand. Moreover - the dialectic relationship between observer and observation creates the object. When we believe in something - it exists; when Nietzsche claimed that God is dead - we killed God. And for so long we were lonely and faithless in our alienated world, isolated by our own metaphors - by our own limited and limiting beliefs (and existence).


In the act of language, we create worlds and we are influenced by them: 'Metaphors are the growing-points of language' (Robert Sharp in Honderich, T, 1995). The observer engages himself in creation: he observes himself through the metaphor (the language) and chooses, by this very action, to create an existence - be it mind, matter, it doesn’t matter. God is the collective metaphors, the collective unconscious as manifested in the infinite flow of information: A collective subjectivity. Hence, everything is (theoretically) possible.


6. Molecules of emotion II


Somewhere along the book appears the phenomenon of 'Tower of Babel'. Candace Pert tries to mix languages, metaphors, to integrate them into a new one. However, this very endeavour of integration is further alienating her writing from the old, static paradigm. With excitement, joy and hope, Candace is giving birth to the new paradigm inside her, while it is creating a new self for her - when a new language is created: the subject changes. We alter. Every therapist who wishes to gain deeper understanding of the process of change, of the basics of our dynamic psyche should read this book.


In the later part of 'Molecules of Emotion' we witness a journey of self-exploration, expanding her choices and her words (and worlds). Candace stops researching biology, even when she is in her lab she uses new concepts to research herself (through the languages she already knows - mainly science). Another way of looking at it is the opposite way - even when she observes herself, she still uses the same language. Yet, her words mean different things than before, her subject of observation changes and then, necessarily, she alters as well.


The shift of the subject changes the understanding. Consciousness has us, Dr Gottesman tells Candace; we are created by thoughts and occupied in creating ourselves and being created, in an infinite dialectic flow of creation, of information, of God.


Candace is well transformed, a true rainbow, colourful butterfly, who is able to breathe deeper, inhale the air of love and continue to develop - and it's great to have her on 'our side'. Plato believed that once you are enlightened, you feel an inner responsibility, almost an obligation, to share your knowledge with your fellowmen who can only see the shadows (Roth, 1951). Dr Candace Pert is following her heart, she is telling her own story - her own biographic metaphor for change, to help those who look for metamorphosis. 


7. The psychotherapeutic metaphor


The new psychotherapeutic paradigm (holistic approach) is the art of change. We help our fellowman and woman to create a new language within themselves - and then using their own resources to recreate themselves, towards less-limited and less-limiting a world (better to have choices than no choice, is it not?). They have more options to choose from, more information - they are freer. This is the basic idea of Erickson's 'Accept and Utilise' or NLP's 'Pacing and Leading'


It is now well established that our world is filtered, and our filters are the world. NLP argues that your own reality is not objective, and this is true: "Say to a blind man, you're free, open the door that was separating him from the world, Go, you are free, we tell him once more and he does not go" (José Saramago, 1995).


Nevertheless, our subjective world is shaping us back. One cannot overestimate the power of subjective worlds on the experience of the client (and yourself): it is this very subjectivity that creates existence, and this is exactly why we, as therapists, are teaching our fellow clients the art of new languages. 


But why learn language? Why bother yourself with metaphors? The answer is easy: because language is the only thing that IS, metaphors are the existence, and learning language is a prayer. Engaging with metaphors glories the God, creates the being, adds information to the world, creates existences, vitalises us.


"Even though the clock would like to convince us otherwise, time is not the same for everyone" (José Saramago 1997).


Our shared space is deeper than artefact agreements such as time or space; it is about information, about compassion and brotherhood. Language bridges the gap between the 'I and thou' (not necessary spoken language, but rather any metaphoric system). It is the ultimate flow - compassion is a pure flow of information (metaphoric language of emotion, the language of love) between one and another.


So where do you stand, the complementary-medicine practitioner, the psychotherapist? You are right in the eye of the storm of paradigm shifting, as a communicator you are gaining more knowledge, getting to meet so many worlds and languages, translating limited languages to more useful ones. So much has been done in the past hundred years to demystify hypnosis, to establish the 'scientific proof' for complementary-medicine approaches, that we forgot something very important: It is MAGIC. What is more mystical than getting to know new worlds? What is more magical that understanding aliens? What is more powerful than the power of compassion, that with each and every client you see - expands your heart?


We deliver the greatest power of all, waving the strongest magic-wand: we deliver CHANGE.


8. Conclusion


Franz Rosentweig's philosophy consists of three elements (his major philosophical book, The Star of redemption, was published in 1921) - man, world and God. Everything derives from the dialectic relationship among the three - they shape and create each other, over and over again (Bergman, 1974). The mutual relationship among the three can be looked at as the reality, as the dynamic existence, as the creative change. It is this triangle, so common in our roots and religion, that enables creation: static energy is dead, only dynamic energy is alive. Since we are shaped and formed and created in the form of our metaphor, when the paradigm will be infinite and dynamic - so will we.


And in the meantime, we can take advantage of our central location in this exciting era, and learn some more, circulating more information in the system, allowing the flow of energy to grow.


Asaf Rolef Ben-Shahar is a Hypnotherapist, Psychotherapist and an Integrative Massage Therapist, working in London, Potters-Bar and St. Albans.

Tel: 01707 661 501





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