In the split second moment of conception, the two streams of genetic information from your parents, handed on from generation to generation over literally hundreds of millenia, combined in one single cell that was to become you. It ensured that you became a totally unique living record of the lives and ways of your ancestors. And we are not just talking about the way you look - we are talking about your ancestral memories, the complete set of instincts and response patterns that were responsible for the survival of those two genetic streams in the first place. The instincts and response patterns that you were actually born with.
Read the paper that follows, then take the test to discover which one of the three basic human personalities you are - Warrior, Settler or Nomad. Of course, if you're really impatient, you can take the test now click here.
This paper has appeared on Dr. Bryan Knight's web site:
Ancestral Memory and Neurosis by Terence Watts
This paper is an outline of the hypothesis that ancestral memory may cause conflict which commences at the very beginning of the experience of life, by which I mean the moment of birth. It proposes that ancestral memories from two different parental genetic chains come together to create the potential for discord in the psyche, and/or are acted upon by external influences to cause conflict which will have to be resolved in some way if the individual is to be content in life. It is a hypothesis that is concerned more with psychotherapy as opposed to hypnotherapy, though much of the information is useful in the latter discipline.
Before The Beginning
Although we are taught that man first appeared on earth around 3 million years or so ago, there is no proof that those creatures were actually our ancestors. Some scientists believe we are related to the very early species and/or to the later Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon man, while others believe that we are a separate race entirely, first appearing between 90,000 and 200,000 years ago. It doesn't much matter, really, as far as we are concerned; if we are related, then we have inherited their savagery; if we are not, then we had enough of our own to deal with theirs, for they were around until about 30,000 years ago, by which time Modern Man was an established species.
Homo Sapiens was probably nomadic in existence until about 10,000 years ago, when they started to form settlements and domesticate plants and animals - the earliest attempts at civilisation.
So there had already been many thousands of years of ancestral savagery; for some it was kill or be killed and take what you want; for many, it was keep your head down and out of trouble; and for the rest, every time danger threatened it was run like the wind. The fight/flight/freeze response surely has its roots here.
There have been hundreds of generations of violence, plagues, famine, witches, warlocks and wizards, crusades, wars, fantastic inventions and even more fantastic events since those days.
Interbreeding passed on mixed genetics; environment ensured a goodly amount of neurosis and general anxiety. So truly, each and every human being is unique, because the computations of the effects of that environment upon the genetic exchanges are almost infinite. And when you take a look at the whole evolutionary process on a percentage basis, it's no wonder that we all of us still exhibit primitive behaviour quite often.
The Wandering Savage
Even being generous and assuming that Homo Sapiens, our race, did not appear until around 100,000 years ago, we are no more than one half of one percent modern, the rest primitive. 99.5% of our psycho-genetic make-up has not reached the level of the middle ages and by far the vast majority of it is still that of a wandering savage.
Evolution moves slowly and it will be a very long time yet before the human race truly becomes as we try already to be. In the meantime, most of our race are going to be born with conflict - or potential for conflict - already in place, the resolution of which is unlikely to be at birth, but probably as and when needed, or maybe even never.
Perhaps, in the rare situation where there is no conflict, either within or externally, this may result in the superconfident personality, the 'together' person who finds the process of living an easy one to cope with from the very beginning and who tends to be successful in most of their undertakings. The one who makes living look easy, in fact. And to that individual, it IS easy, since his or her ancestral urges are in harmony with his existence, allowing the individual to easily adapt, dominate, or simply not care.
Ancestral memories would not be of actual events - it is not to be confused with the idea of past life or reincarnation - but of reactive response patterns and emotional states brought about by environment. Early tribes whose main way of life was subservience, aggression, nomadic urges, famine fear, etc. These circumstances could, over many generations, create minute changes in the content of the amino acids that form part of the DNA chain, aided by in-breeding and the process of natural selection at work. These genetic changes would obviously be passed on to the progeny, probably affecting actual brain chemistry, so that each generation was progressively more inclined to the predominating characteristic. They would have been predominantly Warriors, Nomads, or Settlers. So there would be a predisposition at birth towards the behaviour patterns of the tribe an individual was born into. But the tribes could not have remained pure indefinitely.
The nomadic behaviour of some ensured that interbreeding and cross breeding soon guaranteed that each individual carried the genes for different behaviour patterns, though there would almost always be a single dominant one - or dominant set, since a behaviour pattern is unlikely to be created by a single gene. It's certainly possible, though, that an individual can be subject to two opposite and equal urges being 'built in' to the psyche, as it were, so that there is a permanent state of flux between, say, the urge to pacify and the urge to dominate. These conflicting urges would have caused conflict in an environment where the rest of the tribe were still committed to, or appearing to be committed to, just one of those behaviours.
So neurosis, the feelings of being a misfit in some way, would have been created. It indicates that neurotic behaviour patterns could even be in some way instinctive - in that they could be inborn' rather than created by experience - which raises serious questions, not to be approached here, about the efficiency of the principle of natural selection.
It's worth recognising the fact that while it is possible that there were as many as 150,000 generations of our ancestors as savages, there have been only around 100 generations since the advent of Christianity and the guilt and sometimes excessive superego development that goes with it. The prehistoric gene still carries an awful lot of weight, and it is in constant conflict with the Ego in even the most healthy individuals. At birth, each and every one of us is already subject to this vast history of genetic and behavioural influence.
We are born genetically programmed with a predominance towards one of those three tribal behaviours - the Warriors, Settlers, or Nomads.
And then life happens…
The Birth Predisposition
The birth predisposition is probably a physical part of the Right Brain, and therefore 'hard-wired' and unchangeable without the intervention of surgery, clinical intervention, or other physical damage such as illness or accident. It is possible that an individual with a severely uncomfortable 'hard-wired' conflict may be unlikely to find an alleviation of their problems via therapy of any sort. Essentially, they are suffering from one of the forms of psychosis, and it will typically become most evident in their late teens. Although behavioural therapy can help in these cases, brain-chemistry altering drugs would be the most likely path to the relief of those apparent symptoms, which are likely to be very specific and very profound.
A readiness to profound anger, depression and excessive aggression, all for no real reason, are good examples. Fortunately, these cases are either rare, or the adaptability of the human psyche resolves the conflict before it becomes apparent. At birth, the logical left brain is almost empty - evidenced by the low number of synapses, the measure of brain activity - and like a sponge, starts soaking up information, every new stimulus, avidly and immediately. It can't NOT. And since the logical brain IS pretty much empty, everything perceived, though not necessarily understood, assumes high importance and is accepted without question. Repeated a few times, it becomes a fundamental belief, since we have few prior experiences for comparison and we have not yet discovered doubt to make us wary.
Cuddles, Comfort, Pain and Violence
The birth predisposition, the genetic ancestral memory, is nothing more than a set of responses to stimuli, rather than a belief and expectation system; from the very moment of birth onwards, though, those responses start to shape the way will become, forming the bedrock of our personality.
Our first experiences are our yardstick of the world however good or bad they are; they are what we learn to expect and they result in a fundamental behaviour set that is designed around those expectations. Cuddles, comfort, pain, violence, and the situations which cause them are all equally accepted as being normal and our reactions to them are governed by that birth predisposition. Most of the time, thanks to the adaptability of the human psyche, the basic pattern of being thus formed allows us to function at least fairly comfortably - which is just as well because it can seldom truly change very much, if at all. It is probable that we continue to create those fundamental beliefs at least throughout the Oral stage of our development, because at that time we are busily adapting to our environment in order to survive. At that time, we have no way of knowing that what you see is NOT necessarily what you get, so everything that befalls us is always indicative of the way life is, as far as we are concerned, and we have to learn to deal with it in some way.
It is only as we mature and begin to develop the more finely tuned emotional responses that the human animal is capable of, that we begin to recognise the truth; that few things are perfectly good or perfectly bad. Along with that recognition comes the ability to offset one circumstance against the other and accept what seems to be a reasonable compromise. But the decisions we make in that direction are at a purely conscious level; the subconscious has its own unchanging view of things, and where it perceives an event is bad, it will create a feeling of unease, even though we may have made a decision that seems to reflect what we really want. That is how our subconscious always perceives things for the whole of our lives. Good or Bad. Black or white. And until that later emotional development, the identification procedures and demands of the ID are not modified enough by the influences of the SUPEREGO to soften the impact upon the EGO; so everything is perceived as either good or bad, responsible for pleasure or unpleasure, and an experience to be stored for future evaluations and comparisons.
By the time we are about ten years old, we have discovered how we fit into the world, the likelihood or otherwise that our desires and expectations will be fulfilled, and what is expected of us. The affects of life and experience upon our birth predisposition have shaped and moulded our own unique personality and we are now the sum total of our ancestors, our triumphs and our disappointments, and our reactions to the behaviour of others.
We also have an intense knowledge of how others seem to think of us and without some sort of intervention, this overall view of ourselves will change very little for the rest of our life; not that we actually continually see ourselves as being only ten-years-old, just that our opinion of ourselves in relation to others will remain pretty much constant from then on. So if, for example, we have perceived that adults are going to belittle us or hurt us in some other way, then we may experience problems as we grow older and begin to mix predominantly with adults; the subconscious continues to perceive them as a source of threat. This, I am certain, is the origin of inferior feelings and low self esteem in the adult, and also the reason that the onset of maturity so often heralds psychological difficulty; it is possible, too, that paedophilia has its origins here. And if there have also been difficulties with peer socialisation during the early years, then there may be feelings of complete isolation and separateness as an adult. So our early years are fraught with uncomfortable possibilities and combinations of influences; in spite of it all, though, the majority of individuals safely reach maturity able to deal comfortably with the stresses of existence as long as life goes reasonably well. But sometimes, life goes far from well, and sometimes, fate is ungenerous if not brutal.
It is then that we may begin to feel that we simply cannot cope. We need help.
Role Of The Psychotherapist
The role of the psychotherapist is to help his/her client gain a better understanding of self - to discover, perhaps, who they really are; to discover and use positive resources within and to resolve doubts and anxieties that may have been suffered for many years. There are very many forms of psychotherapy being practised and taught, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, each with its dedicated followers. It is good to be eclectic, but not too much so; energies may become dissipated and, for most of us, it is probably better to have a favoured modus operandi into which we can incorporate other knowledges and resources that we may acquire over the years. I prefer an essentially cognitive/behavioural, client-centred approach, probably because my initial training was in hypnoanalysis and I therefore have a bias towards the doctrine of cause and effect. We should all work where we have the highest level of conviction and, for me, that conviction is that problems arise in the psyche in the ways already outlined - as a result of birth predisposition and subsequent events, rather than purely as a learned behaviour.
There does not have to have been any crisis which would be universally viewed as traumatic; there does not have to be a single causal event or mishap which is at the root of all the individual's problems. Our problems may be due to nothing more than the fact that when we are born we are reared by people whose way of being is fundamentally different from our own predisposition.
There does not have to be a 'villain of the piece', and even when there is, it is not necessarily the case that s/he is the cause of our client's difficulties. That said, it is when we are confronted with the neuroses of others during our formative years that most damage is done. It is here that we find the roots of all the complexes, in particular the masturbation and/or guilt complex, as well as sublimated instinctive drives, embarrassment about perfectly 'normal' behaviour patterns (dating, eating in public, etc.), shame about body and bodily functions, phobias (often by example: if mother is afraid of spiders, then they must be creatures to be feared), general anxiety (again, often learned by example), etc.
A neurotic parent will tend to produce a neurotic child; two neurotic parents can scarcely do anything else. Even where the behaviour of others during those formative years has been emotionally and psychologically stable and therefore non-injurious, even where nothing other than support and encouragement has been extended towards the developing individual, there may still be problems arising from the developmental process.
An individual may struggle to solve problems with a firm, no-nonsense attitude, because their family has insisted that this is the way it must be - the Warrior instincts - whilst they would secretly prefer to adopt a negotiating or reconciliatory approach, that of the Settlers; they might learn that practicality earns respect, whilst all the time experiencing the imaginative, Nomadic, flights of the creative mind; or perhaps be taught that it is 'normal' to be one of the general crowd, while every instinct is that of the scholar, the introvert, with a thirst for knowledge and understanding.
These and other contradictions can cause, at least, feelings of uncertainty, at worst, feelings of being inadequate or a misfit. If the 'secret' urges are eventually fulfilled, then there will probably be no resultant neurosis; it is when the individual suppresses them, that they make their presence felt in the form of symptoms. Then, they have often been denied for so long that there is no longer any conscious knowledge of their existence, just a feeling of being different in some way, which is often translated as being 'odd' or 'weird'.
Attempts to change or modify any behavioural or thought process without resolving any beliefs, mistaken or otherwise, that are the cause of that behavioural or thought process are likely to result in a long haul to emotional health and may even then provide only a relatively temporary respite from discomfort. The client's own resources are at least as viable as the client's own conflicts and come from the same root - the birth predisposition and early experience. They just need finding, focusing upon, and using.
The Initial Consultation
Whatever our therapeutic persuasions, the initial consultation is an important time, both for client and therapist. The client is seeking reassurance that their condition can be helped; they are also anxious, believing that we have more 'secret knowledge' than we actually do.
They can often imagine that every single word they say, every gesture, stutter, twitch and intake of breath, every shuffle of the foot, every hesitation for thought, may be taken out of context and somehow assume great importance as far as the therapist is concerned. They usually know little or nothing of what we actually do, or how we do it, and they may even fear that we are going to pronounce them beyond help, or worse, possibly verging on some sort of insanity. What we have to remember is, that in this rarefied state of concentration and anxiety, which often verges on hypnosis, our own behaviour is of paramount importance. We can use the situation to engender transference, overcome resistance, and give our client's belief system a swift boost. In other words, we can make that all-important 'difference for today' that is going to set our client on the road to a swift recovery even before we begin therapy.
These days, it is the swift recovery that is sought and, in most cases, the swift recovery for which should conscientiously strive.
Probably the most important part of this initial consultation is the gathering of facts, from which we can assess whether or not we have the necessary resources ourselves to help the client, or if we should refer them on to either some other form of therapy or orthodox medicine. The professional must know his limitations and if s/he believes s/he doesn't have any, then that is the biggest limitation of all.
There are three questions to which I always want the fullest possible answers.
1. Details of the presenting symptom(s).
2. What the client wants therapy to achieve.
3. What they feel is stopping them from achieving it on their own.
As far as question 1 is concerned, what it is, how long it has existed, and what the client believes to be the cause of it all are obviously essential information.
Symptoms are quite often coping mechanisms, like aerophobia and claustrophobia (often related, of course) and we need to look for associated hidden agendas or secondary gains. Where the symptom serves no apparent purpose, though - the fear of birds and moths, for instance, the indirect symptom - we may not need to probe so deeply. The cause is not particularly important, here, nor would it be easy to find, so a more direct approach is indicated. Reframing and the use of metaphor or fantasy are both useful approaches, though there are obviously others. In all cases, though, we need to discover the individual's own resources to work with.
Question 2 is important, because it tells us whether the client has realistic expectations of what we can do, or if, instead, s/he is hoping for some sort of 'magic' to be performed. I am never satisfied with a straightforward 'Want to get rid of my symptom' type of answer; I need them to tell me how they want to be, how they want to feel, what they want to be able to do that they can't do now.
For many, this may the first time they have directly addressed this particular aspect of their difficulties and it therefore focuses their mind on what they want to achieve. It is also an encouragement for them to look forward beyond their difficulties, to perceive that there may be an end in sight. In other words, another 'difference for today'.
Question 3 tells us something of the resources we need to help our clients find. If what they tell us seems congruent with the answers to questions 1 and 2, all is well and we can soon begin to start work.
It may be, though, that what they tell us here seems to be transparently inappropriate. In these cases, we can attempt to elicit the REAL reason they believe they need help and when we are convinced they are telling us the truth as they perceive it, we should respect that it is the operative part of what our client perceives to be his/her difficulty in life. If there is still a lack of congruence, I then tend to assume that this one is the only full answer they have given and ask more questions about their symptom(s) or their aspirations until I find out what was missing.
If we don't ascertain exactly where they are and where they want to go, then neither we, nor they, will know when they've got there! For many people, simply defining full answers to those three questions can give them a much-needed sense of direction and put them on the road to recovery even before we have done any real work.
Separating The Client From The Symptom
Any form of client-centred therapy cannot easily run to a format style of treatment, since every client is going to have a unique set of difficulties and resources with which to overcome those difficulties. Just about the only thing that I do on almost every first session is to encourage the client to realise that s/he is not the symptom, to remove any label as soon as possible.
If the client says s/he is claustrophobic, I reply that there is no such thing as a claustrophobic individual; I tell those who claim to be aggressive the same thing - that there is no such thing as an aggressive individual; I will even sometimes insist to the jealous person that jealous people do not exist. These apparently fatuous remarks produce something that I value highly in a client; a heightened state of attention and concentration. I wait for a moment or two while they struggle to work out what I could possibly mean, or if they have not heard me properly, wait for the small frown that almost inevitably appears before I explain that the claustrophobic individual is just a normal person who is temporarily suffering the symptom of claustrophobia; the aggressive individual becomes a normal person who finds it easy to access assertiveness or anger; the jealous person, of course, is a normal person who feels unsure of his/her abilities to maintain the interest of any other individual.
They usually quickly grasp the difference between actually being something and suffering it, and this simple reframe has, once again, already made that 'difference for today' even if nothing else is achieved during that session.
The Direction Of Therapy
From session two onwards, the direction that therapy takes will depend on the individual who seeks it. In any one client, it might involve some of the following (in no particular order):
Accessing times when they felt well and times when they did not.
Realisation and acceptance that change is both possible and necessary.
Looking for how they want to be, rather than how they fear they will be.
The setting of short, mid, and long-term goals.
Assessing what they need, and what they have, to achieve those goals.
Understanding the principal of 'ownership of problems'.
Understanding the difference between positive and determined thought.
Recognising the existence of hidden agendas and/or secondary gains.
The development of a coping strategy.
Recognising their projections onto others.
Learning that what others think of them is none of their business.
Letting go of the past negative events or emotions.
It might involve any of those but, then again, it might not, because I work with what the individual brings with him/her.
What is certain, though, is that if I do my job properly with a co-operative client, then that client will leave my office after each session with a conviction that something is different.
It is not important what the therapist thinks the client should think/be/feel, etc. What is important is that at the conclusion of therapy - when the client leaves the therapist's office for the very last time - s/he should feel a sensation of upliftedness, a conviction that life can be rewarding, and an even stronger conviction that their life will be as rewarding as any.
If therapy has been successful, they have a new understanding of themselves and how they fit into the world; they have discovered the resources they need to cope with the pitfalls, and joys, of life and living; they have a growing sense of self-worth and confidence. They are happy. In this paper I have attempted to indicate my beliefs about the origins of conflict and the ways that I might best help a client to resolve them. For this reason, there is no in-depth review of what I actually do, or the way I do it, on any one session.