Background to my interest in teaching children with autism

PSYCHOTHERAPY BEYOND THE FRINGE, continued

                                                                        PART III

            Fear! Protectiveness: The learned core of dis-ease …

Introduction — Scare Scars

Anxiety or fear or stress has long been recognized as the common core of the ‘neuroses’. Selye and others have argued cogently that stress is the common core of a great many of the physical illnesses which afflict humankind – certainly nearly all of the ‘chronic’ diseases, or those which are most likely to threaten life. He also showed that stress is a basic attribute associated with even acute or infectious diseases, and that it affects the person’s ability to recover from acute illnesses.

Stress, of course, is the effect on the body of the repeated and/or intense activation of the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. It is this system which both initiates and orchestrates the body’s immune system, and eventuates in the proprioceptive sensory feedback to the brain which is experienced as anxiety or fear. That is, from a psychological perspective, fear is at once the core of the most commonly occurring psychological difficulties (the neuroses), the main basis of nearly all chronic diseases and an important aspect of recovery from acute diseases. And, according to Felicity’s observations, it is also the common core of the psychoses (or the major mental ‘diseases’) as well as the underlying root of anger and most violence. So if Felicity respectfully recognizes and treats anxiety in the majority of cases, at least from his perspective, that would be the appropriate thing to do.

But anxiety is not just implicated in the ‘causation’ of all kinds of human ills and suffering, it is a source of distress in its own right. Perhaps spending a bit of time addressing anxiety for its own sake might help to cast some light upon the different kinds of anxiety, how each is learned and develops, what effects each has on daily living as a learned motive for avoidant actions, and how each may most effectively be treated. This issue is addressed in the present part.

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