The argument for TREATING THE SYMPTOM vs TREATING THE CAUSE OF THE SYMPTOM has been with us since the beginning of medicine. The former is seen in the current psychotherapeutic practices of medication and behavioral modification. It is based upon the medical (allopathic) model of healing. The latter is the goal of primal therapy. It is based upon the naturopathic model of healing.
Unfortunately, the allopathic model has eclipsed the naturopathic model. It is difficult to get anyone to even understand the difference, let alone to debate the merits of naturopathy. Conventional psychotherapy has modeled itself after the medical profession. Practitioners go to a book and see what behavioral symptoms most closely matches those of a client. The collection of symptoms is given a standardized name. And the client is treated accordingly. The most dominant forms of treatment seek to medicate the undesirable symptoms or they try to give the client the skills to modify the undesirable symptoms (behaviors). The psychological community describes neuroses as being groups of symptoms “having no apparent cause”. When pushed on the question of cause, the response is: the cause must be genetic. We’ll discover the genetic cause some day. For now, treat the symptoms.
The decision to treat the symptoms (behaviors) makes little sense, given that we’ve known since the 19th century that fear conditioning and anxiety disorders go hand in hand. We understand the nature of fear conditioning. It is a process whereby threatening stimuli are paired with defensive sensorimotor responses. This linkage becomes a primitive memory, which is capable of chronic, lifelong reactivation. Chronic reactivation causes the fear and anxiety related behaviors.
Logically, treatments should have been designed to treat the cause of the problem: the fear conditioned memory. Arthur Janov’s term for such memories is the Imprint. His therapy addresses the imprint itself by allowing the victim of trauma to release elements of the traumatic memory to consciousness. This helps to connect the sensorimotor elements of the traumatic memory to the neo-cortex, thereby enabling impulse control over the chronic reactivation of that memory.
Unless, or until, psychotherapy begins to address the cause of behavioral disorders (the imprint) we are stuck with endlessly beating down our symptoms. Anyone who has played whack-a-mole understands the futility of this activity…you whack one mole and another pops up in some other place. Symptom treatment can guarantee a lifetime of medication, psychotherapy, and/or support groups. Chronic conditions (both physical and emotional) are best addressed naturopathically. Primal therapy is naturopathy applied to emotional healing.