Over the course of my time conducting psychotherapy, I have come to realize that a primary reason why people suffer and develop psychological and emotional symptoms is due to their endeavors to control the so-called “dark emotions”. Our societal indoctrination and individual personal conditioning histories have led us to believe that difficult or powerful emotions are “bad”, “dangerous”, and potentially overpowering, and therefore in need of control. Conversely, I have also found that people can find relief from various forms of suffering by learning to dismantle their control strategies and thereby learn to not only face but embrace the most challenging affective experiences. Therefore you might say that this is the anti-self-help book. Whereas most books in this genre endeavor to help their readers to “control”, “manage” or “conquer” stress, anxiety, anger, grief and so on, it is the contention of this book that such endeavors may fail to help provoke true growth and liberation and can actually serve to perpetuate an illusion that lies at the very core of much of our difficulties.
Drawing upon research and accumulated knowledge from the realms of exposure based behavior therapies derived from learning and conditioning models, the field of human development (specifically “attachment theory”), as well as the emerging area of “mindfulness” practice that originates from eastern philosophies and disciplines, I have constructed a conceptual framework to guide therapeutic practices which I entitled Integrative Mindful Exposure.
The first two chapters explore the nature, history, and consequences of the myriad ways in which we seek to control and avoid our emotional experience. In the context of helping people to face the most difficult human emotions and experiences including fear, anger and shame, a description of Integrative Mindful Exposure philosophy and implementation is then offered. These three emotional states/experiences are, in my estimation at the core of much of our suffering and symptomatic difficulties, not just because of the experiences themselves, but due to the degree that we attempt to control these emotional states. The reader will also be exposed to other phenomena that individuals may face as they face the recesses of their inner psyche.
This book leads the reader into a deep inner journey so as to help them to lose control, that is to say, to recognize their control strategies and to learn methodologies to facilitate the abandonment of these potentially self-destructive control tendencies in favor of directly being present with these emotions. In so doing, one is offered the opportunity to gain not only freedom from difficult symptoms but to advance the pursuit toward personal liberation and harmony.