I have a big dilemma. I read about people who have a problem with PTSD who, through prejudice, have rejected my way of dealing with the problem, and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. For example, I read recently in The Guardian (Guardian, 8 July 2017 “I took my first antidepressant this week. The effects were frightening” Deborah Orr) that Deborah Orr had taken her first antidepressant, and I already know two things.
The first is that she has bought into the absurd idea that drugs can help or even sort out an emotional problem. Of course, people have been trying that for many years, self-medicating with alcohol, cannabis, opioids and others; it didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. Nowadays, it gets wrapped up in medical bollock-speech about stopping the brain re-absorbing too much serotonin and that tries to absolve the patient from any responsibility by saying, “It isn’t what you do, you poor thing, it’s your silly brain not knowing how to function properly.” Of course, the real problem is the decisions that have been made.
Can it get more stupid? It could. A surgeon could come along and say, “If we cut out a small piece of your brain, we can stop your silly brain getting it wrong!” You know, they have already said that. They said it to my aunt, who then killed herself because she couldn’t live with the consequences; and yet people still trust doctors to solve their PTSD – it is so bizarre.
The second thing is that she is going to be stuck with her problem for a lot longer than she needs to because she has rejected alternatives. Survival of the fittest playing out.
I sort out PTSD in a way no doctor would ever think of. The thing is, when you hold a friend really close, you can actually feel when they are emotional and when they are not. You can go through it with them, but there is a difference: you do not hold the complete context of the problem, and that gives you a distance that makes it easier not to get overwhelmed. When I see patients, I do not hug them. Instead, I hold their head while they lie on a couch, somehow this is more acceptable, but, even so, I can still feel what they are going through.
The point is that every single one of us knows how to deal with emotional problems. Every one of us does so on a daily basis, but they are the minor problems: dealing with the grumpiness of a teenager, the frustration of finding a car parking space, the annoyance at not getting an appointment sooner, we deal with them. The only ones you can’t deal with are the ones that are overwhelming. So how do we, as practitioners, deal with the overwhelming ones?
The answer is very, very simple. You get close to them, hold their head, and ask them to relate their story; because you are feeling exactly what is going on with them, you can get them to stop before it becomes overwhelming. You can get them to process that bit first, and then go back to their problem and do it again, stopping just before it gets overwhelming and process that bit.
Most problems are sorted out in one or two sessions, sometimes three. Not a year’s worth of sessions that it has taken Deborah Orr not to get better, and that is probably why few have heard about what we do. It doesn’t matter how bad a person’s problems are, once it has gone it is not a problem anymore. Therapists who take a year to help a patient get better get more exposure than a therapist who only takes a few sessions.