Why a Client Can Seldom Remember the Origin of Their Problems
by William J. Ronan, M.S.
The original incident, emotion or idea which gave rise to apprehension and started the entire problem has typically been forgotten for the reason that the client is so engaged and immersed with the vicious loop of fear and distressing symptoms that he/she cannot reflect clearly and coolly.
The forgotten event has given rise to the fashionable idea among both professional and lay people that there has to be some deeply obscure ‘subconscious’ repressed event, which has caused all the trouble.
No grand ‘subconscious prying’ is needed. The origin of the trouble can be traced very simply in most cases. The event, or events, which produced the idea, or ideas, which led to the vicious circle of fear, tension, symptoms, and further fear and worry, may have taken place in early years. Or they may have occurred at any time.
A completely normal, healthy individual can, under certain conditions, literally be hypnotized, accidentally or otherwise, into a neurosis. These theories have been confirmed by experimental proof.
The symptoms, which are so frequently found in cases of mental health disorders can be, explained simply when the mechanism of how the disorder develops is considered. Tension is very universal and is the common sense consequence of the client’s preparation to ‘fight against’, or ‘run away’ from what he/she imagines to be danger.
Low energy or nervous fatigue is the expected outcome of the attempt to remain continuously tense and/or prepared for action. Physical symptoms result if the stress is related to any particular part of the body.
For example, tension of the muscles involved in talking can result in stammering. If it’s involved with the hand, it may be accountable for ‘writer’s cramp’. If it is dispersed throughout the autonomic nervous system, all sorts of psychosomatic symptoms are possible.
The victim from functional asthma who describes him/herself as being ‘tight in the chest’, and the sufferer of headaches who complains of a ‘tight head’, have each arrived unexpectedly at a diagnosis, which is probably sound both psychologically and physiologically!
Insomnia, which is quite common in mental health clients, results from the client’s continuous efforts to stay ‘on guard’ in readiness to battle against his/her ideationally caused dangers. Nature did not design a human being to sleep when faced with peril. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) cannot differentiate between a ‘real’ danger and an ‘imaginary’ one.
Something may concern the client which then causes sleeplessness. If he/she worries about lack of sleep and fears it may lead to ill health or nervous breakdown, then this trepidation, by creating tension, keeps the state going and establishes a vicious circle.
Fear of mental illness is extremely genuine, even if unconscious to the sufferer. The client frequently arrives at the dread conclusion that he/she must be going crazy merely for the reason that he/she is powerless to explain or comprehend how his/her symptoms have come to pass.
Lack of ability to focus is especially frequent in nervous disorders. This in itself is upsetting for the client. From the illustration below it will be seen that the client becomes increasingly engaged with his/her own objectionable symptoms and feelings.
Logically he/she pays less and less attention to anything else. It is as if the client were hypnotizing him/herself and suggesting progressively disagreeable symptoms in much the same way that a hypnotist gains the subject’s attention to a greater extent and is able to deepen the trance and achieve phenomena of escalating intricacy.
Deteriorating memory is a familiar complaint and especially disturbing one for the sufferer, who attributes it to grave mental illness. As the majority of his/her psyche is engaged with disagreeable thoughts of his/her condition, the sufferer takes little notice of anything besides him/herself and his/her symptoms. As he/she takes little notice he/she absorbs very little, and his/her recall becomes increasingly worse.
The state of affairs is comparable to that where a subject pays such great notice to a hypnotist’s suggestions that he/she takes little notice of anything else, and ‘forgets’ what happened.
In mental health issues the client is factually self-hypnotized, and becomes increasingly en rapport with him/herself!
Psychosomatic symptoms frequently go with the mental health issues and occur in the ANS.
Anything, which upsets the stability of this delicate complex system, can lead extensive disorders that envelop the entire range of human problems. Consisting of two distinct systems, the sympathetic and parasympathetic, which are, as a rule, balanced in synchronization.
This nervous system controls all the muscles, organs, and glands, which are independent of the will. The sympathetic part in general prepares the body for ‘fight or flight’.
Under these circumstances the heart rate is amplified to propel additional blood into the muscles for action. The blood pressure rises, adrenaline is secreted, further stimulating the sympathetic nerve-endings, and the liver glycogen is transformed into sugar to make available energy for muscular work.
Nature did not mean to have a person process food, have bowel or bladder movements, or indulge in sex when getting prepared for ‘fight or flight’ from some peril.
Each is inhibited by the sympathetic nervous system. This explains why worry can cause digestive disorders, and anxiety may cause sexual impotence. The parasympathetic system, in general, produces the reverse action to the sympathetic.
What affects the mind can has an effect on the body, and vice versa. Nervous fears and worries can cause physical symptoms, and these physical symptoms, by alarming the client, can cause additional anxiety and so produce a vicious circle.
The chart below shows in a simple illustrative way the extensive ramifications of the autonomic nervous system and gives an idea of the many changes which may well take place as the consequence of any instability of its fragile sense of balance.
Illustration of the way ideas (arising from real or imaginary events), by causing fear, worry, anxiety, etc., can bring about changes in organs, glands and blood-vessels of the body through the autonomic nervous system.
S J Van Pelt’s hypothesis postulates a widespread starting point in some dread or anxiety-provoking event or idea which concentrates the psyche into a state of adverse hypnosis, acts as a hypnotic suggestion starting a sequence of thinking leading to a vicious circle. The typical subdivisions, as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals of the mental health issues are consequently regarded to some extent as synthetic and redundant.
References: Van Pelt, S J, 1956, Hypnotic Suggestion: It’s Role in Psychoneurotic and Psychosomatic Disorders, NY Philosophical Press