Animals are very aware of a menace, of a sex object, or a reward. Their cerebrum does not expand beyond that into consciousness. They can sense and be aware, can be aware but not conscious. Consciousness means an harmonious confluence of all brain levels working to protect the individual from danger, both internal and external. Internal comprises pain imprinted into the nervous system that accumulates into, at times, a massive input that threatens to damage or impair the defense system. What is too often neglected in therapy is the emotional level which is denigrated in the service of the intellectual level.
It is the lingering aspect of our history that become an over-weaning burden that results in depression, low blood pressure and other related symptoms. It is the importuning insurgence of that force that can produce ADD, impulsiveness and other signs of an internal overload that cannot be integrated. When we see that conglomerate of afflictions, we must assume an imprinted force that needs integration. That is our job: to suss out those internal forces, to learn what and where they are, and how to integrate them into the neuro-biologic system. Integration is the key word here because in psychotherapy the patient is given his insights, which means large room for error as there are built-in errors due to the fact that information is provided by someone else’s perceptions and not the patient’s. Errors cannot be integrated because they are not organic to the system. They are aliens, strangers that have no business in the biologic system of the patient. That is why we need a therapy that emanates solely from the patient and no one else. Insights from a therapist are organic to him alone and can be loaded with errors. Worse, when we genuflect psychologically to the psyche of the patient, we reduce the litany of errors which can be committed. No one is smarter than the patient, nor more perceptive. More important, no one is smarter than the patient’s personal internal time-table in therapy, which dictates when powerful feelings are ready to be experienced. If we neglect this one fact, we are liable to push a patient into massive pain, which can overload him and lead to serious symptoms. No whine before its time. (Oh my, excuse the pun. I am trying to make a serious subject fun). Alas, too often it is anything but fun. I need my sanity too. But my pun is deadly serious, for we have seen over fifty years what happens when too much pain accumulates without being felt; an overload of pain on a lower level which then wends its way to the top level neocortex where it provides, inter alia, insights to explain what is going on, or delusions to make rational those internal terrors that have been unleashed. They importune us to provide some reason for being so terrified. The person is unaware of deep brain forces at work. He imagines it comes from outside of him. So the man “hiding” in the phone booth is whispering secrets about him.
So what is an insight? It is the understanding of one’s life, motives, impulses, fears, and obsessions, all proffered by a biologic system that has held this information away because biting the apple of information can be highly painful. Once bitten there is no going back. We cannot erase or undo the insight; if it is correct it is now part of us. And when it comes to the surface to be experienced the system knows it is the right time; if not, it will remain sequestered. And if the person is pushed to experience the pain prematurely, it is, by definition, the wrong time. The warning signs emerge to tell us ”danger ahead.”
So here we have a paradox; a doctor is inculcating information/insights onto the patient who is in no position to hear them. He is “filled-up” already. The imprint is a giant load of information that is too much at the moment. In the case of serious mental problems, it may be correct to aid him for a short time with a painkiller to strip the pain of some of its load so part of it can be accepted and be integrated. One needs a very experienced doctor for this, as when it is mishandled it can lead to serious exacerbation. Feelings in therapy will lead to proper insights when the pain is at an integrable level that can be accepted and is not part of an overload; thus the insights that will come up will be correct and useful. They will make sense. When they are part of an overload and spill unabated into the neocortex, they will be pseudo-insights that help no one. They are just the spillways of too much input. The new (neocortex) brain must rush in to help deal with it and absorb some of the overload with strange, stretched idealization. These delusions are a very thin blanket for feeble efforts to be rational.
As we see, there is a universal effort to normalize, to make sense and explain one’s emotions. Alas, when the pain is terrible, this effort fails and we can get gibberish. In the early days of my practice, I did see some gibberish in very disturbed patients who were down into the brainstem, with no coherent language ability. A very primitive response. So insights are rational and coherent when we are coherent; when the feelings we undergo are now feelable and can rise to the thinking brain untrammeled.
If we continue on with awareness we will see none of that rationality. We will see an intellectual who thinks he has made progress; and he has, but it is confined to his rational brain and not his whole system. Therefore he is smart, yet dumb. His panoply of perceptions is warped and sees only parts of reality. He is good at self deception but bad at true perception. He fails in the emotional department. It is that department that means life and its meaning.