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Janov's reflections on the Human Condition
About the Act Out
Posted: 17 May 2010 01:06 AM PDT
We keep busy and doing things to keep from feeling there is nothing I can do.
We keep having new projects to give us hope to keep from feeling there is no hope.
We keep controlling things to keep from feeling I am helpless.
We keep making phone calls to keep from feeling I am all alone.
Now why would we do that? Because the feeling I am all alone isn’t just something from yesterday or today; it is the primal aloneness in the first minutes or weeks of life when mother, who was sick at childbirth, abandoned her baby. It became a life and death matter. It is a devastating aloneness that can be triggered off in the present whenever we are left alone for a time.
We are acting-out against the pain, so that the act-out is unconscious; we do not know what drives us and we usually don’t even know that we are driven. It is all automatic. We keep from sitting still by much travel all to keep from feeling confined at birth, stuck in the canal, then later stuck in a tense and depressed household which was again “suffocating.” So we drag along our past but never know it is there weighing us down. One reason we know the pain is there is by the act-out, obsessive, continuous behavior that seems irrational. We are acting-out the feeling/pain, trying to get over the feeling but never knowing what it is or how to get rid of it.
Check your act-out and you will get a good idea of what your pain is. Now the tough part: feeling it.
If the lack of act-out makes you anxious, you cannot sit home today, then you know you are usually dealing with a very early first-line feeling. That is, if for any reason you cannot act-out, say you’re are sick and cannot keep busy, the anxiety will be your companion. The act-out has a purpose, a relief valve from importuning feelings. It lowers tension levels and allows us to function better.
The most universal act-out seems to be keeping busy, never a minute to think or feeling, just keep going, usually to feel there is no where to go and nothing to do. When we cannot act out we most often act-in. We suffer from cramps or high blood pressure or worse, epileptic attacks. I treated a woman who needed constant sex, to keep from feeling having never been touched by her parents early on. When she could not act out her blood pressure rose dramatically. The pain has to go somewhere, so let us not moralize about it. No one is obsessively sexual without that pain; not even Tiger Woods.
So what is it we must do! No we now what our deprivation was early on. If you need the windows wide open or else you get anxious you know you lacked oxygen. If you cannot be enclosed, say in a locked car for any time, you may well have been an incubator baby. So the act-out is usually what we call neurosis. It is not the behavior that is neurotic; it is logic in the extreme. It is our feelings that have been deviated and not normal. When we feel our pain we then normalize along most parameters from blood flow to sperm count, to the speed at which sperm move, to how fast our heart beats. So we see why it is so useless to do Behavior Therapy, treating the logical extension of pain instead of the pain itself underlying the behavior. If someone is awkward and often pushes us and we fall we know to avoid that person. But if we do not know what is pushing us we may tend to focus on the fall instead of the push, missing the point entirely. Behavior therapy is extremely superficial and deals only with what anyone can see instead of focusing on what is not obvious and cannot be seen. It doesn’t take a shrink to figure out Behavior Therapy; it takes a real shrink to go deeper. And that will only happen when someone has reached into her feelings and has complete access to herself. Then she won’t misfocus; then she will understand what drives her and therefore what drives others. She understands the “push” of feelings. No more mystery.