Jurriaan Plesman BA(Psych), Post Grad Dip Clin Nutr
From a more holistic point of view I see personality as consisting of layers. The innermost personality is the “biological self”, which controls the other layers of personality. If the biological self is suffering from a biological disorder, such as hypoglycemia, or any of the many digestive disorders, it will affect the next layer dealing with the self-image, and consequently influence other layers of personality in the area of human relationships, that all depend on the self-image. These layers are systematically dealt with in my book “Getting off the Hook” at page 4 accessible here.
Thus personality can be compared to the layers of an onion, where the inner layer affects the function of the next layer.
Thus I emphasize that we need to FIRST treat the biological self, before we can consider the treatment of the self-image.
I also differ from most other psychotherapists in that I believe that the self-image can be the product of a biological disorder (in the here-and-now), and not necessarily the result of childhood experiences or other learning processes. If you have a metabolic disorder that pumps adrenaline and other stress hormones into the system, this will inevitably affect the self-image, because the person is NOT in control of his emotions.
When we have mood disorders it is natural to PROJECT these feelings on to the world and INVENT events that will explain our uncontrollable emotions. See also Psychological Projection. We see this in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) where a past trauma many years ago is blamed for an ongoing metabolic disorder affecting your personality now. This is a delusion, that normally accompanies mood disorders and that may serve to save our sanity (explain to us why we feel the way we do).
Thus when we experience a sudden attack of anxiety, we tend to invent a theory (called technically “projection” or “rationalization”) attempting to explain the causes of these attacks in terms of “cognitive processes”, such as attitudes, false beliefs, learned experiences, processes in a mythical ‘subconscious mind’ or events in the past etc etc.
Somehow, even the prescription of antidepressant drugs does not seem to convince us that the problem is biological and not psychological.
The myth of the all-powerful mind controlling our behaviour stands in the way of more scientific thinking. This is a belief sustained by the psychosomatic model of psychology, which says “it is all in the mind”. The greatest enemy in science is human’s resistance to change. This may be especially so in people who have little control over their moods and emotions.
This overall view of personality also explains my rejection to the notion that all psychological experiences derive from past experiences. Sure we may have learned habits of thinking in the past, but the habits occur in the here-and-now and cannot be changed by contemplating the past or contemplating our navel.
You can change learned habits in the here-and-now, without having any idea where these habits came from. We do not need to know where our hang-ups come from. I am simply not interested in the past! This is where Rational Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (RCBT) (see below) plays a crucial role. It is a therapeutic program dealing strictly with the here-and-now.
This approach will simplify psychotherapy and saves a lot of time in “analyzing the past”. Ruminating about the past is actively discouraged in the kind of psychotherapy that I teach. Thus when it comes to drastically changing one’s personality we are all ‘orphans’ and become totally responsible for treatment ourselves in the here-and-now. We are the source of our emotions! We cannot blame the past, our parents, our society or our peers. Yes, they may have influenced us in the past, but they are no more than habits of thoughts, we can change now. This is a rapid-acting psychotherapy that can bring about a radical change in personality within a period of three months for most people, unless the brain has been contaminated with xenobiotic drugs. When the body has been subjected to drugs it will require a longer period of treatment to repair physical damage to receptors for neurotransmitters.
Thus in this kind of therapy all we need to know is 1) the present metabolic status of the person and treat this by nutritional means wherever possible., and THEN 2) improve our social skills in the here-and-now, starting with a consideration of the self-image. The self-image is at the core of personality.
In summary my motto is “biochemistry before psychology in the here-and-now”.
It aims at restoring the balance and place the inner Adult – the rational mind – in control over the emotional aspect of personality.
After treatment of the biological aspects of mood disorders you can improve your social skill by studying the self-help psychotherapy course, starting with What is RCBT? A short interpretation., then move on to: What is Transactional Analysis and complete all 9 articles at the rate of one per week. In nine weeks you would start to feel better. See Psychotherapy Course.