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''Courage to Heal''   » B2chica

Posted by badhaircut on June 8, 2005, at 13:32:36

In reply to got the book..., posted by B2chica on June 6, 2005, at 11:38:53

> i've heard several of you at one time or another mention the book called "courage to heal" as an 'essential' book...

B2chica, especially if reading this book is so disruptive to your life and sobriety (it sounds like an awful experience), you may want to consider some different perspectives on 'Courage to Heal.' Some of my comments may not apply to your situation, especially if your therapist is not trying to recover memories of abuse but simply using this book to support you in developing compassion for yourself. But even then, you might still be wary of this book.

I hope you will be compassionate to yourself. A neat question I came across the other day is to ask about any other people, "What do they *really* need?" ...then turn around and ask it about yourself. I don't know if I can offer what you really need, but I know I can offer something a little different to think about.

"Courage to Heal" is one of the most roundly criticized pop-psych books ever. It's considered by virtually all university-based psychologists who research in memory to be scientifically unfounded, theoretically dubious, and clinically destructive. The scientists' chief complaint is that it promotes "recovered memory," but I think that even beyond that it is a non-compassionate book that works against what any patient really needs.

Therapists using the book and its techniques have been successfully sued by their patients for using it to conjur and support patently false memories of abuse. As if life were not troubled enough! Is there anything to be gained by remembering even more suffering than we have actually experienced?

Bass & Davis do not even address the possibility of false memory as a RISK: how can their certainty of results be taken seriously? They say, "If you think you were abused and your life shows the symptoms, then you were." Isn't that a reckless assertion? (Bass & Davis, I should note, operate at one remove from legal liability because they merely wrote the book. It is the therapists using its techniques who've gotten in trouble.)

Even for someone who has verified, unbroken (i.e., not "recovered") knowledge of abuse, the techniques in this book can still manufacture additional – but false – memories and create unnecessary additional suffering.

Eliabeth Loftus and others have produced a ton of elegant research showing how easy it is to create and implant vivid, strong, and completely believed memories in *skeptical* people (as well as in believing people) about both trivial events and horrific traumas, both recent and long ago in the person's childhood. The best ways to create, shape, and color deliberately false memories in the laboratory are exactly the methods used in this book to "recover" memories. E.g., read or hear "authorities" claim there's some evidence that you have such memories; be questioned in language that assumes the existence of the memories and the events; be prompted to look for clues & triggers in things having no direct connection to the supposed events; be encouraged to speculate on and describe such budding & wispy memories as may come to mind...

Sound familiar?

You may want to check out Loftus's "The Myth of Repressed Memory" before needing to hide in cars or laundromats to read Davis/Bass. Maybe you could even read & discuss her book openly with your husband? But "recovering memories" may not apply to your situation. (I've read your posts in the last month, but I'm still not sure this applies...)

Another of my objections to Davis/Bass is that their basic thrust is anti-individual, dominating and authoritarian. They've already made up their minds about you (and me and all their readers). Their attitude is that they know what's best! And you better go along with it! Well, what if I don't want to? I'll be rejected, I guess. And if you don't want to? Therapists adhering to their dogma may condescendingly or brutally label patients as unmotivated, resistant, uncooperative, and "in denial."

Another objection: The therapeutic assumption in 'Courage to Heal' runs something like this: «If life is bad in certain ways, there is a true cause. When the true cause is known, true emotions will flow from it and healing will take place by having these emotions flow freely.»

The work of Carol Tavris and others has shown that simply *having* intense emotions is not itself therapeutic, no matter what their "cause." Cathartic experiences of anger and grief and so on actually make people feel worse both short- and long-term. Tavris first spelled this out in her classic "Anger: the Misunderstood Emotion."

B2chica, I think the basic question for anyone in any therapy must always be, Is this making my LIFE better? Is it moving me toward the things that I know are most important TO ME for living the life *I* want to live now? Not just in an intellectual way, and not trying to metamorphose into somebody else, but my best-chosen life with my head & my heart, right here. Not the life somebody else (even a therapist) tells me I should live, and not the head somebody else (like Davis/Bass) tells me I should have.

Being compassionate is only possible in Action; compassion as a feeling is something else. It could be that being compassionate to yourself could include questioning a book that nauseates, shames, and upsets you and leads you to drink & pills with only more of its imperious demands foreseeable.

Sorry this was so long, but thanks to anyone who read this far.





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