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Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?

Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?
Alternative Psychotherapies: Evaluating Unconventional Mental Health Treatments

Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Fable of the Bears and the Holding Therapist (Long After Aesop)

Once upon a time there was a holding therapist who was convinced that all problems were due to brain chemistry; at least, that was what he told people who came to him for help. He advertised that he could do great things for adopted children, and as the parents had been warned by their adoption agencies that the children would probably have certain mental problems, many of them sought the therapist’s help even though their children seemed fine, out of fear that terrible symptoms would show up later. “It’s simple”, the holding therapist told the parents. “Your children are dependent on cortisol, the stress hormone. They like to be stressed so they do things that will disturb other people. And, because you are living with them, you have become addicted to cortisol too.” “Hmm! “ said one parent. “Then why don’t we like all the stress the children cause?” “You only think you don’t like it, “ replied the therapist. “Actually you and the children need your brain chemistry fixed and I will fix it by showing you how to hug correctly. That will shift your brains from cortisol to oxytocin. Oxytocin is the love hormone and it will make your children attached to you and you will all be happy.”

Then the holding therapist set off to walk home through the forest. He was pleased with his day’s work. But after a while he came upon a mother bear and her two cubs. The mother bear was eating raspberries on one side of the path and the cubs were eating blackberries on the other side. Just as the holding therapist came near, the mother bear began to growl loudly and the cubs growled too in their squeaky voices. The holding therapist was not afraid, because he knew how to replace their cortisol with oxytocin. “Look! “ he said to the mother bear. “I’ll show you how to hug your cubs and then you will all be happy and loving.” So he went toward the cubs. The mother bear knocked him down with one swipe of her furry paw and the bears ate him up, all except the teeth and the buttons. The cubs took turns wearing his spectacles. They were all very full and happy and loving to each other.

So the holding therapist was quite right, he did know how to replace cortisol with oxytocin, but the information was no longer very useful to him. Unfortunately he had forgotten that the mother bear’s high level of oxytocin made her very aggressive toward others as well as loving to her cubs. Also, the bears were hungry, so there was more at work than just stress hormones.

MORAL:  Hormones and behavior are a lot more complicated than holding therapists tell you.

Here is an illustration to this fable:
This shows the part after the holding therapist was devoured, so you will not see him. The artist regrettably forgot to put in the spectacles, or the buttons.

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