Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Physiological Basis of my Psychotherapy Method

Someone asked for some clarification on the following statement I had made in my previous blog: "In this therapy, I have included the body psychotherapy technique of dispassionately observing the bodily sensation."

Here is the clarification:

Krishna's discourse in the Gita starts in Chapter 2, verse 11. Then in here's what e says in 2.14 and 2.15:

[Sensations of] heat and cold, pleasure and pain, are born, O son of Kunti, only of the contact of the senses with their objects. They have a beginning and an end. They are impermanent in their nature. Bear them patiently, O descendent of Bharata (Gita 2-14).
That man whom these cannot disturb – the calm man who is the same in pain and pleasure – alone is able, O great amongst men, to attain amrit (Gita 2-15).

What Krishna says about bearing the body sensations of heat and cold etc. patiently -- i.e. without reacting to the sensations -- is known as Vipassana meditation. I had noted simply as "dispassionately observing the bodily sensation" in my letter, for the sake of brevity.

Now "Learning is the acquisition and storage of information as a consequence of experience" (Human Physiology by Vander et al). And we experience everything by means of our sense receptors, as sensations. All this information gets stored in our our memory.

Physiology talks of two types of memory, the declarative or explicit memory and the non-declarative or implicit memory. The declarative memory stores the information we gather from our five external sense receptors/organs. It's the memory we can put into words, and which the mind has access to, for its cognitive tasks. Cognitive therapies can at best make use only of the declarative memory. The 'Inventory Analysis' method of my psychotherapy is a cognitive approach.

Implicit memory stores the information that our internal sense receptors gather, 'autonomically' or without our conscious awareness. This is the information sensed about the changes in the internal environment of the body -- homeostatic fluctuations -- and about the sensorimotor sensations associated with our motor activity or our bodily actions, including our emotional responses. This memory is called body memory by body psychotherapists. This memory is what causes our habits and habitual emotional responses. (The memory of learning to ride a bicycle falls in this category.) Our mind has no access to this implicit memory. That is why, I think, the behavioral aspect is added to cognitive therapies. By doing the opposite thing to the habit again and again this implicit memory can be changed.

Body psychotherapy deals with healing by using touch or by making the client aware of his/her bodily sensations. And Krishna's advice that I quoted at the beginning of this mail is the best body psychotherapy that I have found. 

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